For what would have been his fiftieth birthday, on August 20, we take a look back at the life — and shocking death — of “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott, the legendary Texan guitarist and songwriter who founded Pantera and Damageplan with his brother, drummer Vinnie Paul Abbott.
Abbott, 38, was playing with Damageplan at the Alrosa Villa nightclub in Columbus, Ohio, on December 8, 2004, when a crazed fan walked onstage with a 9mm Beretta semiautomatic handgun and shot him point-blank in the head.
The shooter, 25-year-old Nathan Gale, was a six-foot-five, 268-pound former Marine who blended seamlessly into the crowd. “He was just a crazy fan trying to talk to members of the band,” club manager Rick Cautela told Rolling Stone. “One of my guys who helps to set up the bands eventually told him to leave.”
At first, many concertgoers believed that the shots were part of the act and continued to dance. But footage obtained by 10TV shows that once Gale began firing into the crowd of around 250 people, the scene quickly descended into chaos. Some fled; others were wounded and huddled blood-soaked in a bathroom, and a few people tried to administer first aid.
Before being shot and killed by a Columbus police officer, Gale murdered three more people. The victims, who are pictured in these 10TV crime-scene photos, were 23-year-old fan Nathan Bray; Damageplan crew member Jeff “Mayhem” Thompson, 40; and club employee Erin A. Halk, 29.
Several theories were suggested as to possible motive. Some outlets reported that Gale blamed Abbott for Pantera’s acrimonious breakup the year before; others said that he believed the band owed him royalties.Friends and family who were interviewed after the tragedy painted a picture of a mentally ill man whose mask of sanity had been slipping. His mother Mary Clark told The Columbus Dispatch that her son was obsessed with the Grammy-nominated band and believed that they were stealing songs from him. He also reportedly told a friend a similar story, and added that he planned to sue the band.
Clark also revealed that Gale, who worked construction, landscaping, and at oil-change shop Minut Lube following his stint in the Marines, was released from the military in 2003 due to his paranoid schizophrenia. Since then, several friends had noticed his behavior — including talking and laughing to himself — becoming increasingly more bizarre.
Pantera dominated the heavy metal scene during the nineties and sold more than 7 million records, according to Rolling Stone.
Veteran music manager Peter Katsis from Deckstar Management tells Crimefeed.com that once bands have reached rock-god status, having to deal with deranged fans is sadly not uncommon.
“Unfortunately, writing an iconic song that speaks to millions of people can have a dark side, and several of my artists have had to deal with obsessive fans. They try to make contact for all kinds of reasons, some more serious than others. Some may just want to impress a date or a business contact.
“Others are truly delusional and, for whatever reason, ask for royalties or credit because they need to believe that they are part of creating something bigger or more important. They believe that the lyrics in the music are messages just for them.”
It has been 12 years since his passing, but Abbott’s legend lives on: Fans continue to post memories on the Dimebag Darrell Facebook page and website DimebagDarrell.com, and post clips from the first ever visual history of the band that will be released in September. Pantera’s The Great Southern Trendkill: 20th Anniversary Edition album is due to drop in October.
“Dimebag Darrell always treated his fans well because, ultimately, he was a fan himself and he never forgot how it felt to be one,” his friend Nick Bowcott told Revolver magazine in 2014 on the tenth anniversary of his passing. “As his brother Vinnie put it, ‘Dime had a heart as big as Texas.’”
Main photo: Dimebag Darrell [Wikimedia Commons]