Wed Dec 15, 2004
Today I was contacted by two local Columbus Roadies that were both eyewitnesses to the DamagePlan Shootings exactly one week ago tonight in Columbus Ohio at the Alrosa Villa club. They are members of the local stage crew in Columbus, and work several venues including the Alrosa. "Jon" is the club's stage manager and "Tubbs" is the club's F.O.H. (Front of House Sound Man) and was working monitors that fateful night as he normally did when a national act like DamagePlan played the club. Neither Jon nor Tubbs have spoken publicly until now, even though both have been contacted by several national and local news sources and have been asked for comments. They have chosen to tell their story here to make sure their words are not misrepresented or taken out of context.
Here is their story of those terrible few minutes that have changed their lives forever and taken a close friend from them in the same instant. As Jon emotionally told me, "It was the worst <deleted> thing I have ever seen in my life."
Both Jon and Tubbs said that the afternoon could not have gone any better. The band and their crew were extremely professional and friendly. Jon remembers Jeff "Mayhem" Thompson (the head of the band's security) making sure the local crew all had plenty of water and Dimebag Darrell Abbott even made small talk with some of them during the sound check. "They were all incredible," said Jon. During the day however, a strange man made a nuisance of himself, and was finally told to leave the area by "Mayhem." Hangers-on and Want-ta-bees are common in the music business, and no one figured this guy was really dangerous. This of course turned out to be Nathan Gale, who as we know now ended up shooting six people, and killing four of them later that day. Other than that apparently minor incident, the set-up for the show went remarkably smooth. Tubbs now also remembers that just prior to the show Gale's van was parked behind the band's tour bus, and they announced over the PA several times for the owner to have it moved or it would be towed...which the Gale reportedly did shortly before DamagePlan took the stage.
As the gig was about to start, Jon was on the stage with his roommate and close friend Erin "Stoney" Halk. On the opposite side of the stage stood Jeffrey 'Mayhem' Thompson performing his security duties by scanning the audience for any potential threats to the band. About that time (just a few minutes prior to the band entering the stage) Jon was thirsty, and decided to walk to the bar and get a bottle of water. He told "Stoney" that "the stage is yours" meaning that the responsibility for the security on that side of the stage (stage right) was now his. Stoney motioned a "thumbs up" to verify that he understood. Jon worked his way through the crowd and was near the bar when he heard the first shots. POP, POP, POP...He looked up and saw the horrific sight of Dimebag falling to the ground and the mass confusion unfolding on the stage. His most vivid memory of that moment strangely, is the ear-splitting feedback caused by Dimebag falling on his own guitar. During the next few panic filled minutes he grabbed and pushed people towards the closest door. In a blur of time he eventually ended up making his way towards the stage, grabbing Vinnie Paul Abbott (drummer for DamagePlan and the brother of the now slain guitarist "Dimebag" Darrell) and ushered him to safety.
Tubbs was stage left and watched the entire surreal event unfold just a few feet in front of him. He says he was probably the last person to talk to Dimebag having said something to him as he entered the stage. As the monitor guy for this gig, his mixing console was only about 5 or 6 feet away from the lead guitarist. According to Tubbs, the shooter (Nathan Gale) entered the stage from the stage right area (not from the audience as previously reported) As Gale determinedly ran towards Dimebag the stage right roadie "Stoney" ran after him. "Mayhem" saw Gale and converged on him from stage left. Neither one got to center stage fast enough. Gale fired at least five bullets at point blank range into the doomed artist's body. The final bullet was a fatal head shot fired as he went down. "He was dead before he hit the stage", says Tubbs. "The way the attack happened, nothing could have saved him...nothing," He also remembers the feedback (a droning hum at about 600 Hz, notes the trained ear of the audio tech)
The next few minutes were confused, but this is what else Tubbs remembers.
As Dimebag hit the floor the shooter now turned his attention to Tubbs (still only about five feet away). Gale raised the gun and aimed it at Tubbs who was now literally looking down the barrel of the gun. However, before he could shoot Tubbs, the two Roadies ("Stoney" and "Mayhem") tackled Gale from opposite sides. Neither one had a weapon, and both were putting their own lives at risk to try to stop the shooter from killing anyone else. Erin "Stoney" Halk was an ex-Marine and Jeffrey "Mayhem" Thompson was a massive 7'1'' man and a very scary looking dude, so I'm sure they both thought they had a better than even chance to disarm the gunman. They were wrong. We now know that Nathan Gale was also a trained ex-Marine and he dropped his first empty clip and slapped another one in the semi-automatic 9 mm pistol in the blink of an eye. He killed both of these heroes within seconds of his first victim. Gale had at least five clips of bullets and he reloaded at least once, but probably twice, says Tubbs. As "Stoney" and "Mayhem" died making the ultimate sacrifice, two more roadies and several members of the audience also rose to the occasion and stormed the stage. Chris Paluska (the DamagePlan Tour Manager) took a shot to the stomach, and is still in serious condition in a local hospital (according to the most recent report). John "Kat" Brooks (the band's drum roadie) also took a hit (but thankfully has now been released from the hospital). According to Tubbs, both were definitely trying to subdue Gale. About the same time several members of the audience climbed the crowd barrier protecting the stage, and some tried to help "Dimebag" with CPR while others made their own attempts to subdue the shooter. (MORE HEROES). Tubbs believes that Nathen Bray (the only "civilian" casualty) was actually killed because he was one of those fans that climbed the stage. Tubbs does not believe that any shots were directed at the fleeing audience at any time (again contrary to published media reports). While all these failed attempts of these unarmed heroes attacking an armed gunman were happening, both Tubbs and Jon noticed several police officers quietly entering the club. Most of them took defensive positions, apparently waiting for more back up. Directly disputing published police reports they both claim that the officer that eventually killed Gale was NOT the first officer on the scene. He appeared however to be the first officer that decided to do something about the situation. Seeing that Gale had a hostage and that he was temporarily distracted by the waves of roadies and fans trying to disarm him, the officer shot the perpetrator from behind with a shotgun blast killing him instantly. With that shot, the hostage was released, and the carnage finally ended. The entire incident lasted only a few minutes.
There are reports that there may be some home video of the event. Tubbs seriously doubts that. Any camcorder would have been "smuggled" into the venue since cameras were forbidden per the terms of the band's contract. Any available video images would probably come from low quality camera cell phones and would probably only be still photos. None have surfaced as of this writing, but the police may have any existing images impounded as evidence.
As you can see there is more to this story than has generally been reported. According to Jon and Tubbs there were AT LEAST SIX and possibly more TRUE HEROES that night at the Alrosa Villa club. Certainly the police officers risked their lives and deserve our thanks and accolades. Officer James D. Niggemeyer probably saved many lives by taking the intuitive and ending the bloodshed and should be duly honored for his heroics. So too should we honor Erin "Stoney" Halk (who Tubbs emotionally credits with saving his own life), Jeffrey "Mayhem" Thompson, Nathen Bray, Chris Paluska, and John "Kat" Brooks. Heroes all. Four Roadies and a Fan that disregarded their own safety to protect others. The surviving band members and the 250+ members of the audience may in fact owe their very lives to these heroes. I know Tubbs believes he does.
Tubbs and Jon are both having a hard time dealing with the memories of that night, and they both want to remain out of the public eye. I hope that everyone respects their wishes. They both felt however that a corrected version of this event was important and should be told so that the dead and wounded can be properly honored as heroes... hence this article.
They wanted me to tell everyone that both of them, as well as the entire Alrosa crew, the local Columbus stagehands, the Alrosa club owner and employees, and the family of Erin Halk all deeply appreciate the prayers, the condolences, and the outpouring of love that has been expressed this week in response to this senseless act. They would like everyone to continue to pray for the survivors, the victims, and the victim's families (including the family of Nathan Gale).
Finally I asked Jon and Tubbs if they would stay in the entertainment business after this traumatic experience.
Without hesitation they both said... "Hell yes!"
Written by Karl Kuenning RFL
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED - Karl Kuenning
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