14 Years Ago: Dimebag Darrell Was Murdered Onstage

December 7, 2018

December 8th, 2004 will be a day that left the rock and metal worlds shaken.

Ironically the same day of John Lennon's assassination, fans around the world had to mourn the loss of another rock icon, Dimebag Darrell, guitarist for Pantera.

While performing onstage with his other band Damageplan, Dimebag had been shot and killed by a disillusioned fan, 

At that time Damageplan was only two shows away from ending their tour and both Dimebag and his brother and drummer Vinnie Paul had plans to celebrate the holidays and get back in the studio to start working on another record.

On the day of the shooting, everything seemed to be going fine. The band arrived at the Alrosa Villa club in Columbus, OH. Instruments sounded fine during the soundcheck. Dimebag thanked the club owner for booking them. He and Vinne Paul were hanging out on their tour bus before the show started, and then the two of them watched their opening act perform.

"They were doing Parliament songs heavy metal style and they were all dressed up like G.I. Joes," Vinne Paul said in an interview. "We were catching such a nut on them. We were back there doing shots and peeking out and cracking up about the whole thing. So, we were all in a good mood and we had a full house that night and went up on the deck and right before we went on Dime was warming up his hand and putting his lip gloss on. The last thing I ever said to him was 'Van Halen?' And he gives me five and says, 'Van f**kin' Halen!' That was our code word for letting it all hang out and having a good time. And that's the last thing he ever said to me, man. It's insane."

It was only a few moments after Dimebag appeared on stage when things took a turn for the worse. Just a few seconds into their opening song "Breathing New Life," Nathan Gale, a six-foot-five ex-marine appeared from behind a wall of amplifiers and ran onstage while brandishing a Beretta 9mm handgun. Standing directly in front of Dimebag, Gale fired off three shots into the back of the guitarist's head. Gale continued to fire as crew members attempted to subdue him. And additional four people were killed and two wounded before Vinnie Paul's drum tech John "Kat" Brooks was taken hostage. Less than three minutes after a 911 call was made, officer James Niggemeyer arrived on scene without any backup and shot and killed Gale with a 12-guage Remington 870 shotgun. Officals found 35 rounds of ammo on Gale's body. "I knew from that distage I could shoot the suspect, as long as I aimed high enough and wouldn't hurt the hostage," officer Niggemeyer told MTV News. "At that point, almost immediately, I fired."

Despite his heroic actions, Niggemeyer would suffer from PTSD and high anxiety before leaving the police force.

Initially, police believed Gale was motivated to murder Dimebag because he believed he was the reason why Pantera, Gale's favorite band, broke up. An investigation later concluded that Gale suffered from schizophrenia and believed that his thoughts were being stolen by the members of Pantera.

The drama continued to rise as the already sour relationship between Vinnie Paul and Pantera singer Philip Anselmo worsened. Due to Anselmo's long list of side-projects, there was little communication between himself and the Abbott brothers, making the possibility of a Pantera reunion impossible. Vinnie Paul became incredibly upset when he heard Anselmo say in an interview with Metal Hammer that Dimebag "deserves to be beaten severely."

"There's no doubt the guy who did this was out of his f**kin' mind," Vinnie Paul said in an interview. "He's somebody that should have been incarcerated. When you've got somebody with obvious mental problems, it's not a great idea for his mother to go get him a gun that's used for killing people in the military. And obviously, he knew how to use it. He wasn't just some ragtime dude who grabbed a gun. I saw what happened, and I knew exactly that the dude was on a mission, man, for whatever reason. And the kind of s**t [Anselmo] said [to Metal Hammer] is the kind of s**t that might incite the guy that did this to do the kind of things that he did."

​Although Anselmo has not spoken with Vinnie Paul since the shooting, and was told he wouldn't be welcome at Dimebag's funeral, the vocalist continues to admire his late comrade and says he would be willing to make peace with Vinnie. "He can come through that door with fifths, a handshake - any of the above - just as long as he comes because I love the guy," Anselmo said. "I love him. I love Vince. He's a big part of my life, man. I just want to say on my end, I am an open door. I am an open door."

Vinnie Paul on the other hand has made it clear that he isn't intent on rectifying his relationship with Anselmo any time soon, and might never welcome him back into his life again. "It's just not important to me," said Vinnie. "If you had an ex-wife and it was a pretty bitter split, you might not ever want to talk to her again. Who cares if everybody in the family and your friends want you to say hello again. It's your choice whether you want to do it or not."

Although it has been twelve years since his passing, time has helped heal some of those wounds in Vinnie's heart. To help him cope with the loss of his brother, Vinnie Paul relocated to Las Vegas, NV because the two of them would often visit the city to cut loose and forge many fond memories.