Three Years After DIMEBAG's Murder: Missed Opportunities Abound

Rock author, writer and photographer Chris Armold — who penned the book "A Vulgar Display of Power: Courage and Carnage at the Alrosa Villa", which is described as the authorized biography of Jeffery "Mayhem" Thompson, former head of security for DAMAGEPLAN, and two other heroes (audience member Nathan Bray and venue security member Erin Halk) who died December 8, 2004 at a nightclub shooting in Columbus, Ohio which also claimed the life of DAMAGEPLAN guitarist "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott — has released the following statement:

"It's been three years since the horrific murder of ex-PANTERA guitarist 'Dimebag' Darrell Abbott at the Alrosa Villa in Columbus, Ohio. For those unfamiliar with this crime, here's how the story is commonly told. Abbott was a rock star, formerly the guitarist of the heavy-metal band PANTERA. On December 8th, 2004, a mentally disturbed fan runs onto the stage during a performance of Abbott's new band, DAMAGEPLAN. The gunman grabbed Abbott by the hair and shot the guitarist in the head, killing him instantly. Moments later a lone Columbus Police Officer enters the Alrosa Villa and kills the gunman.

"That's the 'meat' of the story as far as the media and some individuals are concerned. However, there is far more to be told. The deeds of three men and two very important lessons have been virtually ignored. In addition to Abbott, three other men, Jeffery Thompson, Erin Halk and Nathan Bray, were also callously and cruelly murdered that sad evening. They died as heroes trying to save Abbott and others but few people know the details.

"Seconds after Abbott was murdered, DAMAGEPLAN's security chief, Jeffery Thompson engaged in hand-to-hand combat with the armed killer. He struggled to take control of the 6' 4" murderer as they grappled on the stage. As Thompson fought the killer, Abbott's brother Vinnie Paul and guitar technician John Graham were able to flee. Thompson was subsequently shot twice and would die. From the audience, Nathan Bray, a 23-year-old husband and father of a two year old boy was at the Alrosa Villa to see his favorite guitarist, Dimebag Darrell Abbott. After Abbott was shot, Bray climbed from the audience and onto the stage to give CPR to both Abbott and Thompson. While performing CPR, Bray observed the killer several feet from him. He turned to face the gunman and was shot one time in the chest. He also died. Then there was Erin Halk, a professional roadie and a member of the Alrosa Villa's security staff. A former US Marine, Halk attempted on several occasions to engage the killer who had taken a hostage. Rebuked several times by gunfire, Halk charged when the gunman was reloading. However he was shot and died at the scene.

"Sadly it appears the deaths of these four men are still not enough to prompt action on two very important lessons we should have learned from the savage murders.

"First, the fact that the killer had an extensive criminal career that started when he was placed no probation at the age of twelve. Throughout his teens, he was arrested and detained for multiple thefts, (eventually resulting in a felony conviction,) breaking and entering, drug use, and was even kicked out of his home for domestic violence. With all the contact he had with our social service professionals over the years, no one recognized his mental illness. Instead, his behavior was chalked up to drug abuse. Our cops, court officials, judges and probation officers need the training to identify people who need help and treatment. The killer wasn't identified as a paranoid schizophrenic until he was 22 years old. And by that time he had purchased the gun he would use to murder four innocent people.

"Secondly, how does a man convicted of a felony, arrested for drug use and various other offenses legally purchase a handgun? In this case, the killer used his correct date of birth and social security number when he filled out the instant background form. Moments later the FBI's background check approved him as a buyer.

"Something is broken in Ohio. Here's how it is supposed to work. From the time a person is arrested for a felony (and a few specific other offenses,) that individual is instantly ineligible to purchase a handgun and added to the federal 'ineligible to buy' list. (If later cleared of the charge he can be removed from the list.) However, for all of this to work, local, state and federal agencies all have to perform flawlessly in a very complex process ripe with 'holes' and devoid of serious oversight. In the case of Nathan Gale, the Alrosa Villa killer, he had been convicted of a felony. That felony makes him inelligible to purchase a guy. End of story. However, for some reason his arrest and conviction wasn't reported properly. Ohio's role in NICS is plagued by vagueness, a lack of reporting standards and great complexity in compliance. According to the OBCI, only 200 law enforcement agencies in Ohio have been formally trained on the process. 200 out of almost 9,000 agencies. Ohio isn't the only state with this issue. To the best extent possible the process for reporting data from every law enforcement agency in the nation should be standardized. This isn't a state's right vrs federal issue. This isn't a pro-gun vrs anti-gun issue. This is a "right and smart thing to do issue." This is only about keeping handguns out of the hands of criminals and psychos. Nothing more.

"In the three years since the murders of Dimebag Darrell Abbott, Erin Halk, Jeff Thompson and Nathan Bray there have been more incidents of violence involving the mentally ill aided by flaws in the NICS system. Foremost is the shootings at Virginia Tech. It's almost a carbon copy of the Alrosa Villa murders. It's a damn shame we were not paying attention to this three years ago. Perhaps VT could have been prevented not to mention the recent horrific shootings at the shopping mall in Nebraska.

"For the people who knew Dimebag Darrell Abbott, Jeffery Thompson, Erin Halk and Nathan Bray, their lives will never be forgotten. But neither will the horrific manner in which they died. It's time to stop shrugging our shoulders and saying 'Oh, too bad.' Convince your local police department, schools, courts and other social service agencies to be aware of the traits of mental illness and know the procedures and facilities available for referral. Most states have Crisis Intervention Training, see if they address the issue of dealing with the mentally ill. If not, push for its introduction. Finally, learn for yourself how our nation's NICS system works. You'll discover it's complicated, it's confusing, it's full of holes and it is not doing what it could be doing. The Alrosa Villa killer slipped through the cracks of what is supposed to be a safeguard and he killed four people. The killer at Virginia Tech killed 32 people and he too should have been on the NICS as non-qualified to own a handgun. Is that really acceptable?

"Finally, Jeff Thompson, Erin Halk and Nathan Bray died not as victims but as heroes. Their actions, and the courage shown by first responding Officer James Niggemeyer and other police officers are inspirational and moving. Thompson, Halk and Bray chose to get involved and they sacrificed all they had in a demonstration of love and humanity that is rarely exhibited. Yet almost nobody has heard of them. 136 Miles north of the Alrosa Villa, just off I-71 is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, Ohio. Of all the artists, musicians, singers and bands enshrined in that facility, none of the artistic brilliance shines as brightly as the sacrifices of these three men. It's not every day three people die trying to save a rock star from a deranged gunman during a concert. Yet I doubt the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame even knows who they are. Should they be enshrined? Well the Rock and Roll HOF is an organization that exists to educate visitors, fans and scholars from around the world about the history and continuing significance of rock and roll music. Thompson and Halk were both roadies and Bray was a fan. Without roadies and fans what good is rock and roll? Yes, it makes sense to me. I mean, who, if not these three men have paid a higher price for rock 'n' roll? If nothing else they deserve permanent recognition for their actions. These men didn't die simply as victims. They died as true heroes and no one can or should dismiss that fact."

Watch video footage from the April 13, 2007 "A Vulgar Display of Power: Courage and Carnage at the Alrosa Villa" book signing at the Alrosa Villa in Columbus, Ohio (featuring Chris Armold and James Niggemeyer):

"A Vulgar Display of Power: Courage and Carnage at the Alrosa Villa" book commercial:

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