The fatal shot that took down Nathan Gale, the gunman who killed guitarist "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott and four others, was justified.
That was the ruling handed down Friday in Columbus, Ohio, by a grand jury, which had been assembled by the Franklin County prosecutor's office to examine the actions of police officer James Niggemeyer the evening of December 8, according to The Associated Press.
With a single gunshot, Niggemeyer brought Nathan Gale's shooting spree — a rampage that unfolded during a Damageplan concert at the Alrosa Villa nightclub and left four people dead, including renowned heavy metal guitarist "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott — to an end (see "Dimebag Darrell, Four Others Killed In Ohio Concert Shooting"). Niggemeyer was the first officer to respond to the calls of shots fired, and snuck inside the club through a rear entrance. With no backup, Niggemeyer confronted the gunman — who'd taken a hostage — onstage. When Gale's hostage managed to wriggle free, Niggemeyer took aim and fired off one fatal round, killing Gale.
While Officer Niggemeyer's split-second response hasn't been publicly scrutinized or second-guessed, it is standard practice for prosecutors to present all cases of lethal use of force by police officers to a grand jury for evaluation. The panel's decision not to indict Niggemeyer — meaning the grand jury found there was no wrongdoing on the officer's part — was expected, Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien told the AP.
"There was little doubt (the shooting) was lawful, given the 200 eyewitnesses and the circumstances that surrounded the shooting. Nevertheless, we still have an independent body review the facts," O'Brien said.
Gale, armed with a Beretta 9mm semiautomatic handgun which he reloaded once during the shooting, had an arrest record for several nonviolent offenses, including driving with a suspended license and trespassing (see "Dimebag's Killer Was A Stranger In His Neighborly Hometown"). Minutes into Damageplan's set, Gale jumped onstage, made a comment about Pantera, and fired at close range into Darrell's body. The guitarist was shot several times before Gale started firing on the crowd.
Gale had told his mother he'd been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic before his discharge from the Marines in October 2003. Military records do not suggest mental illness played a role in the discharge.
The television program "America's Most Wanted" had nominated Niggemeyer for a bravery award, which he did not win. Viewers' votes decided the winner; Niggemeyer received the second-highest number of votes for the honor.
Click here for more on the tragic death of Dimebag Darrell and the Ohio club shooting.