Six months after Nathan Gale opened fire at the Alrosa Villa nightclub in Columbus, Ohio, killing Damageplan guitarist "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott and three others before being killed himself, the officer who ended the rampage has finally spoken to the press.
Officer James Niggemeyer told Columbus' NBC4 that when he entered the club on December 8 and saw Gale, 25, holding a gun to the head of a hostage, he knew it was a "now-or-never" situation. The interview with Niggemeyer came just days after authorities released a home video of the shootings that shows the gunman clutching a 9-mm semiautomatic pistol and opening fire (see "Videotape Of Chaos During 'Dimebag' Darrell's Shooting Released").
"They were yelling, 'Come back here, because this is the stage where he's at. Come back here!' " Niggemeyer said of patrons guiding him toward the stage. It was from that rear corner of the stage that Niggemeyer was able to get a clear shot at Gale (see "Dimebag Darrell, Four Others Killed In Ohio Concert Shooting").
"I could see he was holding a hostage around the neck and still had a gun, so I knew that I didn't want that hostage to be killed," Niggemeyer said. "When he put the gun to the hostage's head, it became a now-or-never scenario: Do I let him shoot the hostage in front of everybody? Or do I take what I feel is the best shot to try to keep the hostage from being killed? ... It worked out for the best."
Though Niggemeyer was first on the scene, he said he was backed up by other officers who came in the front entrance and helped distract Gale. "I'm pretty sure that they kept his attention and allowed me to get as close as I did," Niggemeyer said. "And if it wasn't for those officers coming in the front, I don't know if he would've ever picked me off or not."
Lisa Lee, the dispatcher who handled the 911 calls from the club that night, was also interviewed. Knowing that Niggemeyer had entered the back of the club alone, Lee acted quickly when she heard the words, "Shots fired."
"I went ahead and ordered an 'officer down/in trouble' call on him, because I wasn't sure if he meant they were firing shots at him," Lee said.
Though Niggemeyer isn't seen delivering the fatal shotgun blast in the video, on it a voice can be heard saying, "You're all witnesses. I had to do it." Shortly after, Niggemeyer emerges onstage — holding his shotgun, seemingly dazed — though it is not clear if he made the remark. He's approached by fans and employees, who pat him on the back.
Niggemeyer was cleared last month by a grand jury of any wrongdoing in the shooting (see "Officer Cleared In Shooting Of 'Dimebag' Darrell Abbott's Killer"). But even if he hadn't found out later that Gale had dozens more rounds of ammunition, Niggemeyer said he would have acted the same.
"If I had to do it again, I had to do it," Niggemeyer said. "I took an oath to protect the public."
Before he was killed, Gale murdered Abbott and three others: Nathan Bray, a 23-year-old Damageplan fan; Alrosa employee Erin Halk, 29; and Jeff Thompson, 40, one of the band's bodyguards. Two other people were injured.
Click here for more on the tragic death of Dimebag Darrell and the Ohio club shooting.