The man who shot former Pantera guitarist “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott and three other men to death at a nightclub was obsessed with the popular heavy metal band and made bizarre accusations against it, a onetime friend said in reports published Friday.
Jeramie Brey said gunman Nathan Gale once showed up at a friend’s house saying he wanted to share songs he had written. The pages of lyrics were copied from Pantera, but Gale claimed he had written them, Brey said.
“He was off his rocker,” Brey told The Columbus Dispatch. “He said they were his songs, that Pantera stole them from him and that he was going to sue them.”
He later told Brey that he planned to sue Pantera for stealing his identity. Brey and friend Dave Johnson said Gale’s behavior frightened them and they distanced themselves from him several years ago. But other friends said they never considered Gale capable of violence.
On Wednesday night, the 25-year-old former Marine charged the stage at a show by Abbott’s new band, Damageplan, and gunned down four people including Abbott before a policeman fatally shot him.
Reports of accusations before slayings
Police said Friday they still didn’t know Gale’s motive, and they may never find out. Some witnesses said Gale yelled accusations that the revered guitarist broke up Pantera, but police had not verified those reports.
An imposing figure at 6-foot-3, Gale had made people uneasy even at the tattoo parlor, staring and locking them into conversations about heavy metal music. When he played offensive line for the semi-pro Lima Thunder football team, he psyched himself up before games by piping Pantera into his headphones, coach Mark Green said.
But Green had not pegged Gale as the type to go on a shooting rampage.
“It wasn’t like he was a loner,” Green said.
Gale had had minor run-ins with police since 1997 but wasn’t considered a troublemaker, according to police in his hometown of Marysville, 25 miles northwest of Columbus.
A former Marine
Gale had served with the 2nd Marine Division at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina until November 2003, when he was discharged after less than half of the typical four-year stint, Marine spokeswoman Gunnery Sgt. Kristine Scarber said. She declined to explain the discharge, citing privacy rules.
A few hours before the shooting, Gale had showed up at Marysville’s Bears Den Tattoo Studio, where often he stared at people and forced them into conversations, manager Lucas Bender said.
“He comes in here and likes to hang out when he’s not wanted,” Bender said. “The most pointless conversations.”
On Wednesday he asked about having the studio order tattoo equipment for him, tattoo artist Bo Toler said. Toler told him no, and Gale got angry and started yelling, he said.
“Last night was actually the first time I noticed his temper,” Toler said.
No one answered the door Thursday at the Marysville home of Gale’s mother, Mary Clark. A message left on her cell phone was not returned.
The violence at the smoke-filled Alrosa Villa club came just after the opening notes by Damageplan, the band formed by Abbott and his brother, drummer Vinnie Paul Abbott, after they left Pantera. Gale dodged two band members, grabbed Darrell Abbott and shot him at least five times in the head, witnesses and police said.
In less than five minutes, Gale had also killed Erin Halk, 29, a club employee who loaded band equipment; fan Nathan Bray, 23, of nearby Grove City; and band bodyguard Jeff Thompson, 40.
Two other band employees, Chris Paluska and John Brooks, remained in a hospital Friday morning with undisclosed injuries. Paluska was listed in good condition and Brooks in serious condition.
911 tapes played
On 911 tapes released by authorities, one caller said, “I heard quite a few gunshots and I think somebody in the band definitely has been shot.”
A short time later a man called and said: “He’s on stage right now. He’s got a gun.” A moment later, the man said, “He just shot again,” and then, “He’s got a gun to somebody’s head.”
Despite a drizzle and temperatures in the 40s, more than 200 people turned up for a vigil Thursday night in the club’s parking lot.
Shawn Sweeney, 22, played “old-school Pantera” on an acoustic guitar as a half-dozen young men held a blue tarp over his head and sang along as a crowd gathered.
“This is beautiful, this is absolutely beautiful,” Sweeney said.