Inside The Mind Of A Killer

Nathan Gale is shown in an undated photo. Police say Gale, 25, charged on stage at the Alrosa Villa nightclub Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2004, in Columbus, Ohio, and opened fire as the band Damageplan began its set. AP/Lima News

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.

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.

Abbott, 38, left Pantera with his brother, drummer Vinnie Paul Abbott, to form the band Damageplan, which had just begun its first song at the club Alrosa Villa on Wednesday night when Gale dodged two band members, grabbed Darrell Abbott and shot him at least five times in the head.

"He grabbed Dimebag with one hand and shot him with the other," said Kevin Minerd, among the 500 people packed into the smoke-filled nightclub to see Abbott's new band.

In less than five minutes, Gale had shot three others, including Erin Halk, 29, a club employee who loaded band equipment; fan Nathan Bray, 23, of nearby Grove City; and Jeff Thompson, 40, a bodyguard for the band.

"I watched the one guy go down, I jumped on stage started giving the other guy CPR," William Weaver, who was in the audience, told CBS News Correspondent Cynthia Bowers.

Two people employed by the band, Chris Paluska and John Brooks, were in Riverside Hospital on Friday morning with Paluska listed in good condition and Brooks in serious condition.

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.

A teammate, James Patterson, 31, said when he last spoke with Gale in October, he was laying sod for a landscaping company in Marysville, where Gale kept an apartment.

"I'm just stunned," Patterson said. "I can't even describe how he could have done something like this."

Gale had red hair cut very close, often wore a winter hat and was always wearing a Columbus Blue Jackets hockey jersey, said Mandi Dellinger, who works at a cell phone store on the same block where Gale lives. Police said Gale was wearing the jersey during the shooting.

Dellinger said she used to say hello to Gale but they never had a conversation. "He seemed like a nice guy. He just seemed shy," Dellinger said.

Gale ate two or three times a week at Maggie's Restaurant across an alley from his apartment, waitress Emi Walden said. He would stay to chat after eating and seemed lonely, Walden said.

"There was something odd about him, not like he would be dangerous to you, just something about him that wasn't right," she said.

Gale mentioned he was in the Marines but wouldn't talk specifics, Walden said. Messages left with several military public affairs offices trying to confirm his service were not immediately returned.

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 immediately returned.

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 and a half-dozen young men held a blue tarp over his head and sang along.

"This is beautiful, this is absolutely beautiful," Sweeney said, referring to the growing crowd.
  • John Esterbrook

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