Dimebag Darrell’s Family Suing Club Where He Was Killed

Lawsuit claims that better security could have prevented the guitarist's murder.

On the one-year anniversary of the shooting spree that took the life of Damageplan/ Pantera guitarist “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott and four others, Abbott’s family has filed a lawsuit against the Columbus, Ohio, club where he was killed.

The suit against the Alrosa Villa nightclub was brought on behalf of the Abbott family by Dimebag’s brother/bandmate, Damageplan drummer Vinnie Paul, and by Damageplan tour manager Chris Paluska and drum tech John Brooks, who were injured in the shooting, according to the trio’s lawyer, Gerald Leeseberg.

“The central allegation of the lawsuit is that there was inadequate security provided at the music venue given the nature and size of the crowd and previous incidents at the club involving criminal activity,” Leeseberg said. The lawyer cited police and media reports about earlier incidents at the metal club involving criminal activity, fighting, handguns and the firing of weapons.

On December 8, 2004 ex-Marine Nathan Gale rushed the stage at the club and opened fire with a 9mm gun, killing Dimebag, Damageplan bodyguard Jeff “Mayhem” Thompson, fan Nathan Bray and club worker Erin Halk, and injuring two — Paluska and Brooks (see “Dimebag Darrell, Four Others Killed In Ohio Concert Shooting” ).

Leeseberg said one of the other claims in the suit is that the security that was provided performed “horribly” in that they were aware of Gale’s suspicious behavior prior to the shooting. “They watched him scale the security fence and gain access to the club and for reasons to be determined, he was allowed to go through the crowd and begin firing a weapon,” Leeseberg said. “He was carrying a weapon and 50 rounds of ammunition, all of this with the knowledge of security that this individual was behaving strangely and they did nothing to stop him.”

Leeseberg said the suit cites an incident eight months earlier in nearby Cincinnati in which security at a venue where Damageplan were playing identified Gale as a suspicious person and subdued him. In that incident, at the venue Bogart’s, Gale was dragged off the stage during a Damageplan show on April 8, 2004 after he caused nearly $2,000 in damage to stage lights and other equipment during a struggle with police.

At the Alrosa Villa, eyewitnesses said Gale had been acting strangely before the show, first blocking the club’s parking lot exit with his car, then pacing back and forth on the Villa’s front lawn as the opening act played.

Leeseberg said the suit argues that steps could have been taken to intervene and stop Gale and that a metal detector at the front door would have deterred people with guns from coming into the venue. “If you have a gun, you wouldn’t go through a metal detector,” he said. “And if you are mentally ill and don’t appreciate that if you have a gun it will go off, you will get caught.”

However, Gale, who had a history of mental illness, did not enter the club through the front door, where a metal detector might have been placed. He jumped a low wall near the back and entered through a stage door after rushing by security guards. Leeseberg said that in allowing Gale to illegally enter the club, security failed to do its job. “They are supposed to stop that because security guards saw him do that [climb the fence],” he said. “One of the security guards said that he didn’t want to mess with him [Gale] because he was a big dude.”

Because of Ohio laws governing civil damages, the lawsuit seeks more than $25,000 in damages, though Leeseberg speculated that the actual amount of compensatory damages a jury could award the Abbott family and Paluska and Brooks for economic losses and pain and suffering would likely be “substantially” higher. In addition to waiting for the final, 600-page police report on the incident, Leeseberg said December 8 was also chosen as a date to file the suit for symbolic reasons.

Alrosa owner Eric Cautela could not be reached for comment, but in an earlier interview with local station WBNS, he reportedly admitted his security force wasn’t prepared to stop a man bent on killing.

“My security guards aren’t supposed to stop a bullet. They get paid $10-$12 an hour. They aren’t paid to take a bullet,” Cautela told the station last June.

The Alrosa will be closed on Thursday and Friday in honor of the anniversary of the murders.

For an in-depth interview with Vinnie Paul, see “Dimebag Darrell: A Brother Remembers.” For a feature where Dimebag’s friends and peers remember the good times and great shreds, see “Remembering Dimebag.”

Click here for more on the tragic death of Dimebag Darrell and the Ohio club shooting.

[This story was originally published at 8:13 am E.T. on 12.08.2005]

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