WBNS-10TV has released a number of never-before-seen images taken by the police crime scene search unit at the Alrosa Villa nightclub in Columbus, Ohio on the night of December 8, 2004. The local television station, which has cited the Orlando nightclub massacre from last month as a reason for revisiting the eleven-and-a-half-year-old tragedy, also posted an article in which survivors recall the terrifying moments that unfolded during the shooting.
A 25-year-old ex-Marine named Nathan Gale charged onstage at the packed nightclub and opened fire on the band and crowd, killing PANTERA and DAMAGEPLAN guitarist "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott and three other people before being killed himself by police officer James D. Niggemeyer, who arrived on the scene minutes after Gale began his rampage.
WBNS-10TV has also released a ten-minute video report (see below) containing security footage from inside Alrosa Villa as well as audio of 911 calls, video footage of the crime scene and new interviews with Alrosa Villa club owner Rick Cautela and Niggemeyer, whose actions that night helped spare the lives of others who ran for exits as the shooting began.
Speaking to WBNS-10TV, Cautela said that he took people into a room fortified with two metal doors while Gale was still shooting.
"This is the place where I took Dimebag's brother Vinnie Abbott and covered him up with a blanket," Rick pointed out. "That night, although I had a gun, I didn't know who to go after. My job that night was to grab members of the band and bring them into a safe place."
He said 35 people were kept safe inside that room.
"More people were trying to get in there, but I didn't know if it was the shooter we couldn't open the door," he said.
After the mostly non-graphic photos from the murder scene and the investigation at Gale's home were posted online on Monday, former PANTERA and DAMAGEPLAN producer Sterling Winfield released the following message on Facebook that he says he sent as an e-mail to the general manager of WBNS-10TV:
"Life must be pretty boring there in Columbus. That is the best you can do for news right now?! Clickbait from an almost twelve-year-old murder?!
"You people are most definitely part of the problem in this country. Drudging up the past and upsetting the family and friends of these people all over again must be incredibly rewarding and spiritually enlightening for you or you wouldn't have approved it.
"Aren't you glad you went to college so that you could learn how to report 'news' just like all of your heroes over at the National Enquirer? But I guess that's why you're still stuck in Columbus.
"People that trust and support their news providers deserve more than this two-bit, hack journalism.
"All I know is that you get back what you put out in the universe. I truly wish that for you and yours there at WBNS."
According to The Pulse Of Radio, Gale seemed to deliberately target Abbott, leading to speculation that the young man, who had a history of mental illness, held a grudge against Abbott and his brother, drummer Vinnie Paul, for the break-up of PANTERA in 2002. Columbus police closed their investigation in October of 2005 without establishing a motive for the shootings.
Niggemeyer told The Columbus Dispatch in a 2014 interview that he was no longer a police officer largely because of the emotional toll of that night. He remained on patrol for three years after Dimebag murder, but the city eventually decided, with the advice of doctors, that he shouldn't be a first responder. He now works in the city's fleet management division.
Under Ohio law, anyone who suffers from brain trauma while on the job isn't covered by workers' compensation. Niggemeyer wants the law to change.
"I think they need to do a lot better job with officers that don't have physical injuries, but mental injuries," Niggemeyer told WBNS-10TV.
"You can have all the therapy you want, but that doesn't necessarily mean you're going to get better, and if you don't get better, who's there to help you?" he said.
"I still see a psychologist twelve years later. I still take my medication, which helps out," Niggemeyer said. "The question I ask … is it going to go away?"
Abbott's death was a devastating blow to the close-knit hard rock and metal community. He was known to his fellow musicians for his hospitality, friendship and partying spirit, and was a legend among fans and peers for his powerful, innovative and unmistakable playing style.
Vinnie Paul sued Alrosa Villa over his brother's death. The lawsuit was settled out of court in 2007 for what was described at the time as a nominal amount.
In a 2014 interview with the "Talk Is Jericho" podcast, Vinnie spoke about his brother's passing. He said: "It was a really hardcore, tragic event, and the guy [Nathan Gale] wanted to kill me too. And somehow or another, I was lucky enough to escape that, and I'm still here, and I will do everything and anything I can to carry on the legacy and the tradition that my brother always had."
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“Absolutely it still lingers. For me, 12 years later, I still see a psychologist."Posted by WBNS-10TV - Columbus, Ohio on Tuesday, July 26, 2016