December 8th, 2004, is a date that will forever be burned into the memories of metal fans, not to mention the wider music community.
On that day at the Alrosa Villa in Columbus, Ohio, legendary guitarist “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott was playing on stage with his new act Damageplan, a shade over a year after the breakup of metal legends Pantera with whom he had played for some 23 years. With Damageplan’s debut album New Found Power receiving mixed critical reviews but going over well with fans – reaching number 38 on the Billboard 200 and eventually selling over 100,000 copies – the future looked bright for the relatively new band. The metal world awaited the unveiling of a second album.
Alas, it was not to be.
Just over a minute into the Alrosa Villa show, former U.S. Marine Nathan Gale began firing a 9mm Beretta 92FS handgun at the stage. A paranoid schizophrenic, it is widely-believed that Gale was under the impression that Pantera had stolen some of his songs and decided to turn to violence in order to exact his revenge. Gale fired 15 rounds in total, striking Dimebag three times in the head. Alrosa Villa employee Erik Halk was shot and killed while trying to tackle the gunman, as was Damageplan security guard Jeff “Mayhem” Thompson. Audience member Nathan Bray was performing CPR on Abbott and Thompson when he was also shot and killed.
Numerous others were injured. Seven police officers approached Gale with caution, as he had taken the band’s drum technician John “Kat” Brooks as a hostage. Officer James Niggemeyer however, approached from the rear of the stage, out of Gale’s eyeline. With a single blast from a 12-gauge Remington 870 shotgun, Officer Niggemeyer killed the gunman, saving Brooks and – considering that Gale was later found to have had 35 rounds of ammunition still remaining – potentially saving the lives of dozens of fans, band members, and club staff.
Tragically though, Dimebag Darrell was pronounced dead at the scene, despite efforts to revive him. He was 38.
It’s hard to believe that ten years have passed since the unspeakably tragic events of that day. Here at All Axess, we’ll bring you some articles today focusing on Dimebag, his music, his skill, his style, and his influence on the industry as a whole. We’ll hear from people who remember the man and who were influenced by him, as well as bringing you some of the highlights from one of the world’s most revered guitarists and of a career that spanned 25 years.
But as we remember Dimebag, we must also be sure to remember Erik Halk, Jeff “Mayhem” Thompson, and Nathan Bray. While Dimebag was indeed the most high-profile of the people struck down that night, the three other innocent victims who so tragically lost their lives should most certainly never be forgotten.
R.I.P. Dimebag Darrell Abbott, Erik Halk, Jeff Thompson, and Nathan Bray. You will forever be missed.