The gunman who fatally shot four people — including Damageplan (and former Pantera) guitarist “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott — at Columbus, Ohio’s Alrosa Villa nightclub Wednesday night was a discharged Marine described as a “disturbed” loner by hometown acquaintances.
Soon after Damageplan began playing at the Alrosa Villa nightclub, the gunman, identified as twenty-five-year-old Nathan Gale of nearby Marysville, charged the stage, shot Abbott several times at close range and then began firing into the crowd of 450. Three others were killed before thirty-one-year-old patrol officer James D. Niggemeyer, who had entered the club through the back door, fatally shot Gale.
The others killed were identified as fan Nathan Bray, 23, Erin Halk, 29, and Jeff Thompson, 40. Halk and Thompson’s reasons for attending the show have not been confirmed, but Thompson was likely a security guard for the band. Two wounded individuals are currently at Riverside Methodist Hospital and have not yet been identified. In addition to Abbott, 38, Damageplan includes singer Patrick Lachman, bassist Bob Zilla and Abbott’s brother, ex-Pantera drummer Vinnie Paul.
Gale was an employee for a temp agency who was on medication for mental-health issues. Brandy Brown, the bartender at a local bar Gale frequented described him as “a hermit kind of guy. I think he lived with his mom.” Lucas Bender — the owner of Bear’s Den Tattoo Studio, which Gale frequented constantly in past weeks — said of the young man, “He kind of gave everyone a weird impression — you know how some people just seem disturbed? . . . After he would leave, my friends and I would all talk and say, ‘Gosh, what’s wrong with that guy?” Gale was discharged from the Marines in November 2003 after less than two of the typical four years of service.
Gale also alarmed Alrosa Villa workers before the gig. “He was hanging around trying to get in,” manager Rick Cantella says. “We told him . . . that he had to pay to get in like anyone else. One of my loaders told him to leave . . . He was hanging around trying to talk to the members of the band, and he was shooed away.” Just before the show, Gale jumped an eight-foot fence to get inside, and headed straight for the stage. “There were guys chasing him as soon as he got in,” explains Cantella, “not because [they saw] he had a gun, but because he jumped this fence and didn’t pay.”
During the gunfire, a local nurse in the audience, twenty-eight-year-old Mindy Reece, stepped in to aid Abbott. “The one thing that stands out in my mind was I could see Vinnie [Paul] stand up from behind the drums and look down…He had this look on his face like, ‘Oh my fucking God.'” says Reece, a Pantera fan since the age of thirteen. With the help of another audience member, she performed CPR on Abbott for several minutes until the paramedics arrived. “I kept saying, ‘Dimebag, come on, come on please, stay with me,'” she recalls. “It was bad . . . There was blood on the floor.”
“The motive is very unclear,” says Sherry Mercurio, a Columbus police department spokesperson. “Right now, we’re trying to piece together statements, which may take some time.” Approximately 250 of the audience members are still being questioned by police. Amateur video was also shot during the show, but investigators have not yet determined whether any of the incident was caught on tape. There have been previous incidents of violence at or outside the Alonsa Villa, including a parking-lot shooting as recently as January of last year.