Police: DIMEBAG's Murder Was Not Motivated By PANTERA's Breakup

John Futty of The Columbus Dispatch has issued the following report:

Bleeding from three bullet wounds and pinned beneath a gunman on the Alrosa Villa stage, John Brooks never saw or heard the shotgun blast that saved his life.

Brooks was among seven people shot by Nathan Gale after Gale stormed the stage of the North Side nightclub with a 9 mm handgun during a DAMAGEPLAN concert Dec. 8.

As four of the victims lay dying, Brooks became a hostage, held in Gale's grip while concertgoers fled and Columbus police moved in.

"Don't move, don't move," Gale told Brooks, pressing his knees into Brooks' back and holding the gun to his head.

Brooks told police he never saw Officer James Niggemeyer enter the rear stage door with a shotgun and kill Gale with a single shot to the head from 20 feet away.

"Brooks thought the gunman was going to shoot him in the head and then all of a sudden the gunman just let him go," according to a detective's interview with Brooks, who scrambled off the stage when Gale fell.

The interview summary is included in a 627-page investigative file on the case released yesterday by police in response to a public-records request by The Dispatch.

The division's Firearms Board of Inquiry reviewed the investigation and determined that Niggemeyer's actions were justified.

Supervisors agreed that the officer acted within division policy.

The documents — including summaries of 287 interviews with concertgoers, band members, club employees, police officers and paramedics — fail to clear up confusion surrounding the order in which victims were shot or explain the motives of the 25-year-old Marysville man responsible for the carnage.

Witnesses agreed that Gale produced the gun when he stepped on stage and that his first target was "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott, DAMAGEPLAN's 38-year-old lead guitarist, who died of three gunshot wounds to the head.

But the band's tour manager, Christopher Paluska, 39, told police he was shot first when he tried to stop Gale from entering the stage.

"Mr. Paluska related he grabbed the guy and this individual turned around and shot him," detectives reported. "After doing this, Mr. Paluska ran to the side of the stage where someone helped him lie down and he watched as Dimebag Darrell Abbott . . . got shot by the shooter."

Paluska and Brooks, among three survivors of the shootings, did not return phone calls from The Dispatch yesterday.

Brooks, a 34-year-old stage technician for the band, was standing behind speakers on the right side of the stage when Gale advanced on Abbott from the other side of the stage.

He said Gale shot Abbott, then shot the band's security chief, Jeffrey "Mayhem" Thompson, as they rushed to help the guitarist.

Thompson died of three gunshot wounds.

The others who died trying to intervene were Nathan Bray, a 23-year-old concertgoer from Grove City who was shot once in the chest, and Erin Halk, a 29-yearold club employee from Columbus who was shot six times.

Brooks was shot in the right hand, right thigh and right side as he wrestled with the gunman. He said he remembers Gale shooting someone else as they grappled.

The other surviving victim, concertgoer Travis Burnett, of Gahanna, said he jumped on stage during the struggle and confronted Gale, who looked up and said, "Get the ---- out of here." Burnett said he tried to put Gale in "a wristlock," but the gun went off and a bullet grazed Burnett's left forearm.

Burnett fled as "he heard three more gunshots that he believed were aimed at his head."

The band members saw little other than the guitarist being shot.

Bass player Robert Kakaha said "he looked over toward Dimebag and the suspect looked like he was hugging him, then turned to the side and that's when he saw the gun aimed at his head." Kakaha ran out the club's back door.

Dimebag's brother, drummer Vincent "Vinnie Paul" Abbott, told investigators that he hid behind some amplifiers after his brother was shot. John Graham, a crew member, jumped on the drummer to protect him, then told him to run out the back door when Gale was reloading his gun.

The gunman walked behind lead singer Patrick Lachman, who didn't realize what was happening until he heard the gunshots.

Lachman jumped off the stage, still holding the microphone, and yelled for someone to call 911.

Gale entered the club as DAMAGEPLAN began its first song. He had scaled a wooden privacy fence that surrounds the club's outdoor patio.

Allison Henthorn, a concertgoer from Centerburg, told investigators she watched three people on the patio encourage the intruder.

"They were basically saying, 'Come on, right on,' or whatever," she told The Dispatch yesterday. "He got about halfway over the fence and they helped him the rest of the way."

A security guard on the patio approached Gale about entering the club without buying an $8 ticket, saying, "No way, no way," she recalled. Gale "said, 'Hey, what's up?' and walked by him into the club."

Henthorn and the security guard followed Gale, who quickly outpaced them on his way to the stage.

Gale's mother, Mary Clark, told investigators her son's paranoid schizophrenia was diagnosed before he was discharged from the Marines and that he had stopped taking his medication.

"In 1999 to 2000, Mr. Gale started telling Mrs. Clark 'they were after him' and he felt there were surveillance cameras placed inside the house and he also started hearing voices," the report states.

Officers who searched Gale's Marysville apartment found no "computers or magazines or compact discs" related to DAMAGEPLAN or PANTERA, the Abbott brothers' previous band.

However, a compact-disc player found inside the Pontiac Grand Am that Gale drove to the concert contained a DAMAGEPLAN CD.

Several witnesses, including band and crew members, suggested that the shootings might have been motivated by the breakup of PANTERA or a public dispute between Dimebag Darrell and PANTERA's lead singer, Phil Anselmo.

Investigators dismissed the theory.

"At this point," wrote detective William Gillette, "there is no evidence leading detectives to believe Nathan Gale was communicating with Phil Anselmo or any other individual . . . in an effort to hurt Dimebag Darrell Abbott."

Among those who were baffled by Gale's motives was the man he wrestled to the ground and held hostage until an officer's shot ended the ordeal.

"Brooks said he kept asking the gunman why he was doing this and to please stop," investigators wrote. "Brooks said he just couldn't imagine why this guy kept doing this."

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