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Gunman kills guitarist for metal group onstage

No motive known for attack on former Pantera member

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Heavy metal guitarist “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott and three other people were gunned down at a nightclub Wednesday before a police officer shot the gunman to death.

The gunman, Nathan Gale, 25, of Marysville, had a hostage in a headlock and appeared to be preparing to kill him when the officer fired, police spokesman Sgt. Brent Mull said. The hostage escaped uninjured, Mull said.

Abbott’s band, Damageplan, had just begun its first song at Alrosa Villa club when the gunman climbed onstage, started yelling and shot Abbott five or six times at point-blank range, witness Chris Couch said.

Couch said that after firing on the guitarist, the gunman shot a bouncer who had pulled him off the musician while fans surged toward the exit. The gunman then fired into the crowd of more than 250 people, Mull said.

Jeff Thompson, 40, who worked for Damageplan, was killed, as were Nathan Bray, 23, and Erin Halk, 29.

Officer James D. Niggemeyer, patrolling nearby, arrived within two minutes of hearing the call.

Mull said he believed there was amateur video that officers could view for clues but that police had no answers yet.

Motive unknown

“We may never know a motive for this, unless he left a note,” Mull said.

Damageplan’s debut album, “New Found Power,” which was released in February by Warner Music imprint Elektra, was produced by Abbott and his brother, drummer Vinnie Paul Abbott. Singer Patrick Lachman and bassist Bob Zilla are the other band members.

Earlier, the brothers had been members of the Grammy-nominated Pantera, whose popularity soared in the early 1990s with a fast, aggressive sound.

Dallas native Darrell Abbott was the son of country songwriter Jerry Abbott, and as a Kiss-obsessed youth, he quickly developed an affinity for playing heavy metal guitar. Using the nickname Diamond, he formed Pantera, which began recording in 1983. The band changed lead singers in the mid-’80s and signed their first major label deal, with Atlantic, in 1990.

The band opted for a heavy sound in the tradition of Slayer and Black Sabbath, becoming one of heavy metal’s premier bands, with Abbott declared one of the genre’s top guitarists. Pantera made its last album in 2001. Abbott also appeared on albums by Anthrax and Nickelback and wrote a song for the 1996 Jackie Chan starrer “Supercop.”

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