Columbus nightclub shooting
On December 8, 2004, four people were murdered and three others were wounded in a mass shooting at the Alrosa Villa nightclub in Columbus, Ohio. Heavy metal musician Dimebag Darrell, the main target of the attack, was on stage with his band Damageplan when the shooting took place. The perpetrator, 25-year-old Nathan Gale, was shot and killed by police officer James Niggemeyer while holding a wounded victim hostage.
|Columbus nightclub shooting|
A fan pays tribute outside the Alrosa Villa to Dimebag Darrell, the main target of the shooting
|Location||5055 Sinclair Road, Columbus, Ohio, U.S.|
|Date||December 8, 2004 |
10:15 p.m. – 10:18 p.m. EST (UTC−05:00)
|Mass shooting, hostage taking|
|Weapons||Beretta 92FS semi-automatic pistol|
|Deaths||5 (including the perpetrator)|
|Motive||Inconclusive (possible persecutory delusions caused by paranoid schizophrenia)|
Dimebag Darrell, real name Darrell Abbott, sustained multiple gunshots to the head and was pronounced dead at the scene. Damageplan's head of security, Jeffrey "Mayhem" Thompson, tackled Gale and was fatally shot in the ensuing struggle. A fan, Nathan Bray, who attempted to aid Abbott and Thompson, was also murdered, as was Erin Halk, an employee of the nightclub who tried to disarm Gale as he was reloading.
Gale was enlisted in the United States Marine Corps from February 2002 until he was discharged in October 2003. The reason for the discharge was not disclosed by the Marines, although Gale told his mother and a former employer that he had received a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia prior to his discharge. A fan of Abbott's previous band Pantera, Gale's friends reported that he believed Pantera had stolen his lyrics and that its members were attempting to steal his identity.
Darrell Lance Abbott, best known by his stage name Dimebag Darrell, was the co-founder and guitarist of the heavy metal band Pantera, which was active from 1981 to 2003. After Pantera's acrimonious split, he co-founded Damageplan. Damageplan released its debut album, New Found Power, in February 2004, and spent most of the year on tour.
On April 5, 2004, eight months prior to the shooting, Nathan Gale ran onto the stage during a Damageplan performance at Bogart's in Cincinnati, Ohio. He was unarmed and was stopped by the venue's security before reaching the band members. He refused to leave the stage and toppled a lighting rig as the security guards forcibly removed him from the nightclub, causing $2,000 worth of damages. Damageplan vocalist Patrick Lachman joked about the incident later in the performance, and the band declined to press charges against Gale as they did not want to return to Cincinnati for court hearings.
On December 8, 2004, Alrosa Villa, a nightclub in Columbus, Ohio, held a concert headlined by Damageplan. Around 250 people attended the show at the 600-capacity venue. As the opening acts played their sets, Gale paced outside the club. When asked by an attendee why he would not come into the club, he said he did not want to "see no shitty local bands", and that he was "gonna wait for Damageplan". Alrosa Villa's manager believed Gale to be a loiterer who did not have a ticket; one of the club's employees told him to leave. After Damageplan went on stage at around 10:15 p.m. EST, Gale vaulted a six-foot-high (1.8 m) fence and entered the club through a side door.
As Damageplan played the first song of its setlist, "Breathing New Life", Gale rushed onto the stage and drew his Beretta 92FS, a 9mm semi-automatic pistol. He moved directly towards Abbott and shot him four times at point-blank range: once in the right cheek, left ear, back of the head, and right hand. Some of the attendees initially thought the incident was a part of the act; a security guard recalled: "People were pumping their fists, thinking it was a hoax."
Damageplan's tour manager Chris Paluska was shot once in the chest before the band's head of security, Jeffrey "Mayhem" Thompson, tackled Gale. Thompson was shot in the chest, back and thigh in the ensuing struggle. A fan, Nathan Bray, who climbed onto the stage to attempt to assist Abbott and Thompson, was shot in the chest, and Erin Halk, an Alrosa Villa employee who approached Gale from behind and tried to disarm him as he was reloading, was shot six times: four times in the chest, and once in the hand and the leg. Damageplan's drum technician John "Kat" Brooks then attempted to subdue Gale. He was shot twice in the leg and taken as a hostage. Responding within three minutes to a dispatch call, police officer James Niggemeyer entered the club through a door behind the stage and shot Gale once in the head with a 12-gauge Remington Model 870, killing him. At the time of his death, Gale had a half-full magazine in his Beretta and another 30 rounds of ammunition on his person.
Fans performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation on Abbott until paramedics arrived at the scene, where he was pronounced dead, aged 38. Thompson, 40, and Halk, 29, also were pronounced dead at the scene, while Bray, 23, was declared dead at the Riverside Methodist Hospital at 11:10 p.m. Paluska and Brooks both were transported to the Riverside Methodist Hospital, where they recovered from their injuries. Travis Burnett, a member of one of the opening acts' road crew, was grazed in the arm by a bullet and received treatment at the scene, but was not hospitalized.
Nathan Gale (September 11, 1979 – December 8, 2004) was from Marysville, Ohio. He attended Benjamin Logan High School before transferring to Marysville High School during his junior year. He took his classes at the Ohio Hi-Point Joint Vocational School, studying construction and electrical work, and graduated in 1998. Afterwards, he developed a drug addiction and occasionally worked minimum-wage jobs. During this time, he lived with his mother, Mary Clark, and made complaints that he was being watched, which she attributed to his drug use. After a violent altercation, she evicted him and he became homeless. Clark allowed Gale to return after he agreed to undergo drug rehabilitation.
In February 2002, Gale enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. Clark was proud of her son's military service, and felt that he had successfully recovered from his drug problems. As a Christmas present in 2002, she bought him the gun that he would later use in the shooting. Gale was stationed at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina with the 2nd Marine Division until October 2003, when he was discharged. A spokesperson for the Marines declined to reveal the reasoning for Gale's discharge, citing privacy rules. Clark stated after the shooting that Gale had told her he was discharged due to a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia. After his discharge, the Department of Veteran Affairs secured a job for Gale as a mechanic. His employer, Rich Cencula, later reported that Gale had also told him he was schizophrenic. Clark believed that Gale was not taking medication for the illness; an autopsy performed by the Franklin County coroner's office found that no drugs were in Gale's system.
At 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m) and over 250 pounds (113 kg), Gale was an offensive lineman for the semi-professional Lima Thunder football team; he listened to Pantera before games to prepare himself psychologically. He had been a fan of Pantera since high school, and retained a fixation with the band after its separation in 2003. Dave Johnson, a former friend, stated that Gale once requested to practice songs, which he claimed to have written, with Johnson's band. When one of Johnson's bandmates said the lyrics were copied from Pantera, Gale said Pantera had stolen his lyrics and he was planning to sue the band. Gale also claimed that the members of Pantera were attempting to steal his identity. Another former friend, Mark Break, said that Gale "was obsessed with Pantera". Johnson reported that he distanced himself from Gale several months before the shooting due to Gale's strange behavior, which included talking to himself and interacting with an imaginary dog. Break reported that he observed the same behavior.
Gale had a criminal record and was known to local police, though none of his crimes were violent. He was cited for criminal trespassing in 1997, for skateboarding at a Kmart, and in 1999, for repeatedly sleeping in a public park. In 2000, he was charged with receiving stolen property in relation to the theft of a set of scales from a construction company that employed him, and was fired. On November 17, 2004, he was arrested for driving with a suspended license. At the time of the shooting, Gale was a construction worker and lived alone in an apartment in Marysville. Handwritten notes were discovered by police in his apartment after the shooting. One of the notes stated: "You'll see come alive. I'll take your life and make it mine. This is my life I'm gone. Git me."
Initial reports claimed that Gale had shouted "You broke up Pantera" or "This is for breaking up Pantera" before he shot Abbott, but these claims were never corroborated by Alrosa Villa attendees. A Metal Hammer interview with former Pantera frontman Phil Anselmo published shortly before the shooting was also initially listed as a possible motivation. In the interview, Anselmo said Abbott "deserves to be beaten severely". A police investigation found no evidence that the shooting was motivated by Pantera's split or by the dispute between Anselmo and Abbott, and investigators were unable to find evidence that Gale had read the interview. The fact that the shooting took place exactly 24 years after the murder of John Lennon was also deemed coincidental. Abbott's brother and bandmate Vinnie Paul later requested to listen to the audio recording of the Metal Hammer interview, and concluded that Anselmo was not joking, as he had stated, when he made the "beaten severely" comment. Vinnie refused to speak to Anselmo after that point. In a 2017 interview, former Pantera bassist Rex Brown stated that Vinnie would not speak to him or Anselmo, and gave this as a reason why a Pantera reunion did not materialize.
A grand jury convened to evaluate the actions of responding officer Niggemeyer, a standard procedure for cases involving the use of deadly force by a police officer. In May 2005, the grand jury cleared Niggemeyer of any wrongdoing. He was praised for his actions: he was nominated for a bravery award organized by America's Most Wanted, and received the Distinguished Law Enforcement Valor Award from Ohio attorney general Jim Petro. Niggemeyer was also named the Law Enforcement Officer of the Year in 2005 by the National Rifle Association. Gale's mother said of him: "I give that man credit. You'll never know how many lives he saved." Niggemeyer retired as a first responder three years after the shooting on the recommendation of doctors as he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. He was transferred to the robbery division as a detective, before leaving the police force entirely. As of 2016, he is working in Columbus's fleet management division and is still receiving therapy from a psychologist due to the shooting.
The shooting led to debate regarding the security at music venues. Scott Ian of Anthrax said: "To me, everything changed after [Abbott] was killed. The stage became off-limits for everyone but musicians. I don't give a fuck how much fun you're having. Stay the fuck off the stage." Paul Mazurkiewicz of Cannibal Corpse said in 2014: "I remember us being fully concerned about it. There was beefed-up security and a little bit more patting down. But it seems to be more out of sight, out of mind, now – back to normal, in a sense." Paul Wertheimer, a security consultant, states: "Little has changed in a business where the biggest stars playing the most expensive concerts get the best security while cash-strapped clubs must simply hope no crazy people walk in bearing arms." After Christina Grimmie was murdered in 2016 in similar circumstances to Abbott, Pantera released a post on its Facebook page calling on promoters and venue owners to improve security for artists.
Black Label Society dedicated "In This River" (2005) to Abbott, and the song's music video features a depiction of Zakk Wylde's friendship with Abbott. M. Shadows of Avenged Sevenfold wrote the song "Betrayed" from City of Evil (2005) about Abbott's murder. He said: "It was my way of dealing with the whole thing after it happened. I never got to meet Dimebag, but he and Slash are my two greatest guitar heroes." Nickelback included the tribute track "Side of a Bullet" on its album All the Right Reasons (2005). The song features a guitar solo constructed from outtakes of Abbott's solos recorded with Pantera.
Disturbed's album Ten Thousand Fists (2005) was dedicated to Abbott's memory, as was Crowbar's Lifesblood for the Downtrodden (2005), and Static-X's Start a War (2005). Brides of Destruction wrote "Dimes in Heaven" for the album Runaway Brides (2005), and Cross Canadian Ragweed featured the tribute track "Dimebag" on its album Garage (2005). Type O Negative's frontman Peter Steele wrote the song "Halloween in Heaven" for the band's 2007 album Dead Again as a tribute to Abbott. Steele said: "Dimebag was a very close friend of Type O." In response to an article that celebrated Abbott's death, Machine Head recorded the song "Aesthetics of Hate". It was included on the band's 2007 album The Blackening and was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance in 2008.
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