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|Posted: Thu Dec 09, 2004 9:16 am Post subject: Former Pantera Guitarist Shot Dead
|By JAY COHEN, Associated Press Writer
COLUMBUS, Ohio - A gunman charged onstage at a packed nightclub and opened fire on the band and the crowd, killing top heavy metal guitarist "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott and three other people before a police officer shot him to death, authorities and witnesses said.
Columbus police department spokeswoman Sherry Mercurio identified three of the victims of Wednesday's shooting as Abbott, guitarist with the heavy metal rock band Damageplan, and two other men, Nathan Bray and Erin Halk.
Damageplan had just begun their first song at the Alrosa Villa when the man opened fire, first targeting Abbott, shooting him multiple times at point-blank range, a witness said.
Abbott, 38, one of metal's top guitarists, and his brother, Damageplan drummer Vinnie Paul Abbott, were original members of Grammy-nominated thrash rock pioneers Pantera, one of the most popular metal bands of the early 1990s.
The witness, 22-year-old Chris Couch, said he was standing about 30 feet away from the stage when he noticed a man wearing a hooded sweatshirt and hockey jersey walk up to the stage, followed by a bouncer and another club employee.
The man in the jersey climbed onto the stage, started yelling and shot the guitarist five or six times at close range, Couch said. He said the gunman also shot a bouncer who pulled him off the musician.
Columbus police spokesman Sgt. Brent Mull said that after shooting at members of the band, the gunman fired into the crowd. Mull said a police officer who arrived shortly after the shooting began shot and killed the gunman.
"If the officer wasn't as close as he was, I think this would have been a lot worse," he said. "It was a chaotic scene, just a horrific scene."
Mercurio said the officer who killed the suspect was patrolling nearby when he heard the call go out. He entered the club through a back door and was directed to the stage, where he saw one person lying dead and the suspect holding onto another person, Mercurio said. The officer shot and killed the suspect.
The suspect's name and that of the fifth person killed were not immediately released. Mercurio said their family members are still being notified.
After the shooting began, Couch and a friend headed for the exit along with a tide of hundreds of fans.
"It was definitely a grudge. It was against something," Couch said.
Amanda Stankus, 19, who attended the show with Couch, said she initially thought the shooting was part of the show. "I just saw the guitarist fall down, and we decided to get out of there," she said.
The Abbott brothers produced Damageplan's debut album, "New Found Power," which was released in February. Other band members are vocalist Patrick Lachman and bassist Bob Zilla.
"Damageplan carries on the tradition Pantera started, the ... hell-raising tradition we were all about," Vinnie Paul Abbott told The Dallas Morning News in October. "We do play some Pantera songs. Me and Dime wrote them, and we feel like we have the right to play them. But the focus is on Damageplan.
"It took a while for some of the Pantera fans to accept it; we knew that was gonna be the case," he said. "Change is something that people have a hard time accepting. But me and Dime intended on doing this our whole lives."
A message left with Atlantic Records, which oversees the record label on which Damageplan records, was not immediately returned.
Damageplan's Web site said Darrel and Vinnie Abbott grew up in the Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, area where their father, country songwriter Jerry Abbott, owned a recording studio.
Telephone numbers for both Darrell and Jerry Abbott are unlisted and could not be reached early Thursday by The Associated Press.
Pantera, known for its brutally hard, fast and aggressive sound, recorded four albums in the 1990s. They attracted a massive cult following and the band's third release, "Far Beyond Driven," debuted at No. 1 in 1994, surprising chart-watchers and critics alike.
Pantera was nominated for Grammys for best metal performance in 1995 for "I'm Broken" and in 2001 for "Revolution Is My Name." The video "The Best of Pantera: Far Beyond the Great Southern Cowboys' Vulgar Hits," made charts earlier this year as one of the top 10 in music video sales.
Dozens of messages were posted to the Dallas band's Web site after the shootings.
"This is the worst day in metal history," one posting read.
"The metal world feels your pain," another wrote.
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