DAMAGEPLAN Guitarist Dimebag Darrell Shot, Killed On Stage

A gunman charged onstage at a packed nightclub and opened fire on the band and crowd, killing DAMAGEPLAN guitarist “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott and three other people before a police officer shot him to death, authorities and witnesses said.

Police spokeswoman Sherry Mercurio identified three of the victims of Wednesday’s shooting as Abbott, who was the guitarist of PANTERA, and two other men, Nathan Bray, 23; and Erin Halk, 29.

She identified the gunman as Nathan Gale, 25, of Marysville, 25 miles northwest of Columbus. She said there was no information on a motive or any connection to the band.

DAMAGEPLAN had just begun its first song at Alrosa Villa club when the man shot Abbott five or six times at point-blank range, a witness said.

The witness, 22-year-old Chris Couch, said he was standing about 30 feet from the stage when he saw a man wearing a hooded sweat shirt walk up to the stage, followed by a bouncer and another club employee.

The man in the sweat shirt climbed onto the stage, started yelling and opened fire on the guitarist, then shot a bouncer who pulled him off the musician, Couch said.

Police spokesman Sgt. Brent Mull said that after shooting at band members, the gunman fired into the crowd. The gunman was shot and killed by patrol officer James D. Niggemeyer, who arrived shortly after the shooting began, police said.

“If the officer wasn’t as close as he was, I think this would have been a lot worse,” Mull said. “It was a chaotic scene, just a horrific scene.”

Mercurio said Niggemeyer, 31, was patrolling nearby when he heard the call about the shooting. He entered the club through a back door and was directed to the stage, where he saw one person lying dead and the suspect holding onto another person, Mercurio said. His deadly shot probably saved other lives, Mercurio said.

The name of the fifth person killed was not immediately released. Mercurio said family members were still being notified.

Thursday morning, a dozen yellow roses, still in plastic wrap, lay near the entry to the low-slung beige building that since 1974 has hosted mostly heavy metal acts. The 641-person-capacity club, just off a freeway exit on the city’s north side, sits amid motels, small businesses and office complexes.

After the shooting began, Couch and a friend headed for the exit along with a tide of hundreds of fans.

“It was definitely a grudge. It was against something,” Couch said.

Amanda Stankus, 19, who attended the show with Couch, said she initially thought the shooting was part of the show. “I just saw the guitarist fall down, and we decided to get out of there,” she said.

The Abbott brothers produced DAMAGEPLAN‘s debut album, “New Found Power,” which was released in February. Other band members are vocalist Patrick Lachman and bassist Bob Zilla.

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