News Segment


January 17, 2005

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Concertgoers who witnessed a fatal nightclub shooting frantically called emergency operators on cell phones and tried to resuscitate the wounded, with some having to wash victims’ blood from their hands, faces and clothes afterward.

Dozens of witnesses and authorities interviewed by The Columbus Dispatch for a story Sunday described a chaotic scene during and after the shootings that killed five people. Some fans rushed to the stage to help, while others ran out of the club – passing authorities on their way in.

Billy Clark climbed over a barricade and reached onto the stage to try to help slain guitarist “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott after he was shot.

“I said, ‘We’ve got to get him out of here. He’s still a target,'” Clark recalled.

Nathan Gale, 25, of Marysville, had shot and killed the guitarist and three others during the concert Dec. 8 at the Alrosa Villa.

“I’m not sure if the soldier in me took over. He was up there bleeding and needed help,” said Clark, an Army veteran who carried Abbott off the stage with at least three others and began to attempt CPR. Abbott was later pronounced dead at the scene.

Gale also wounded three others before a police officer shot and killed him. Authorities have said they may never know exactly what happened that night at the Alrosa Villa club.

Club security guards said they believe Gale scaled a 6-foot wooden fence on the north side of the club, and one guard said he saw him enter through a patio door and work his way through the crowd toward the stage. Witnesses and police said he climbed on stage and began firing.

Aaron Barns, a sound technician for the show, said a man later identified as Gale approached the tour bus shortly before the band took the stage to ask if Abbott and his brother, drummer Vinnie Paul Abbott, were on board.

Friends and family have said Gale was once a huge fan of Abbott’s but suffered from mental illness and believed that the guitarist’s former band Pantera had stolen some of his songs.

At least 10 people called 911 when shootings broke out, several from inside the club.

“The person is still loose with the gun,” Linda Moore, 42, of Columbus, told the emergency operator. “Please hurry, please.”

As police officers arrived, Gale grabbed one of his victims, whom authorities have declined to name, and began using him as a shield. Some bystanders pointed at Gale and screamed for officers to shoot him.

Officer James D. Niggemeyer, 31, entered through the back door of the club and killed Gale with a single blast from his shotgun, authorities said.

“I had to do it. I had to do it,” bystanders recalled Niggemeyer as saying immediately afterward.

Officer Ricky Crum, who was also at the scene, said he believes Gale was preparing to fire at other officers in the club when Niggemeyer fired. Afterward, some bystanders cursed at Gale and kicked his body and had to be ordered out of the building, Crum said.

Niggemeyer hasn’t commented publicly on the episode because it’s being examined by a grand jury, a requirement in fatal shootings by officers.

William Wever, a 33-year-old Mount Vernon man trained in CPR, washed blood from his hands, face and clothing in the club’s bathroom after the ordeal. He had jumped on stage to attempt to resuscitate Jeff “Mayhem” Thompson, Damageplan’s security chief, along with several others. Thompson later died at a hospital.

“I have no clue why I jumped up there,” said Wever. “I wasn’t thinking anything. I just did it.”

Alrosa manager Rick Cautela said he remembers his last view of Dimebag’s brother, Vinnie Paul, who took refuge in the club’s front bar.

“He was wrapped in a blanket, and he was clutching Dimebag’s guitar,” Cautela said.

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