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Darrell Abbott (August 20, 1966 – December 8, 2004), also known as Diamond Darrell and Dimebag Darrell, was an American musician and songwriter who was a co-founder of Pantera alongside his brother Vinnie Paul, and founder of Damageplan. He was considered to be one of the driving forces behind groove metal.
Abbott formed Pantera in 1981 with his brother Vinnie Paul on drums. Originally, he called himself Diamond Darrell Lance. The band was influenced with thrash metal acts such as Slayer, Megadeth, Venom, and Metallica as well as traditional metal bands such as Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Motörhead, and Judas Priest. Shortly after singer Phil Anselmo joined Pantera, Darrell was invited by Dave Mustaine to join Megadeth. Darrell was willing to join, but on the condition that Mustaine also hire his brother Vinnie on drums. As Mustaine already had a drummer, Chuck Behler, Darrell decided to stay with Pantera.
Pantera would go on to become a key formulator of the post-thrash subgenre of “groove” metal. It would not be until nine years after forming that Pantera saw its first piece of commercial success in its 1990 major label debut, Cowboys from Hell. Pantera’s “groove” style came to fruition in its breakthrough album Vulgar Display of Power, released on February 25, 1992, which saw the replacement of the power metal falsetto vocals with a hardcore-influenced shouted delivery and heavier guitar sound. On Pantera’s 1994 album Far Beyond Driven, Abbott, who’d been listed on all prior albums under the moniker “Diamond Darrell”, was listed as “Dimebag Darrell”. On the night before Pantera’s live appearance at the Monsters of Rock in England’s Donington Park, the Abbott brothers got involved in altercations at a local club with journalists from magazines Kerrang! and Raw.
In 2001, the group went on hiatus, during which time Anselmo worked on side projects, such as Superjoint Ritual and Down. This caused more friction within the band, as the Abbott brothers kept waiting for Anselmo to become available to work with them again. The frustration with Anselmo led to their decision to disband Pantera in 2003.
After a year, brothers Vinnie and Dimebag formed Damageplan, a heavy metal band which continued the Pantera-style groove metal sound. The Abbott brothers recruited former Halford guitarist Pat Lachman on vocals, and Bob Zilla on bass. Damageplan released its debut album New Found Power on February 10, 2004.
When writing music for the new group, Dimebag said that “we wanted to stretch out and expand our capabilities to their fullest.”
Fans pay tribute at the Alrosa Villa, in Columbus, Ohio, three days after the murder
On December 8, 2004, 34 dates into the Devastation Across The Nation tour, Abbott was shot on-stage while performing with Damageplan at the Alrosa Villa in Columbus, Ohio. A crowd of approximately 250 had watched four support acts (two local bands entitled Volume Dealer and 12 Gauge, and the tour support Shadows Fall and The Haunted), when moments into Damageplan’s set, 25-year-old former Marine Nathan Gale shot Abbott five times in the head with a 9 mm Beretta 92FS pistol, killing him instantly. Some in attendance initially believed the shooting was part of the act, but as Gale continued shooting, the audience quickly came to the realization that the event was not staged. Firing a total of 15 shots, Gale killed three other people and wounded seven more.
Jeff “Mayhem” Thompson, the band’s head of security, was killed tackling Gale, as was Alrosa Villa employee Erin Halk. Audience member Nathan Bray was killed while trying to perform CPR on Abbott and Thompson. It was rumored that one crowd member leapt in front of the gunman, saving the lives of several band members. Damageplan’s drum technician, John “Kat” Brooks, was shot three times as he attempted to disarm Gale, but was overpowered and taken hostage in a headlock hold. Tour manager Chris Paluska was also injured.
Responding within three minutes to a dispatch call made at 10:15pm, seven police officers entered through the front entrance and moved toward the stage. Officer James Niggemeyer came in through the back door, behind the stage. Gale only saw the officers in front of the stage; he did not see Niggemeyer, who was armed with a 12 gauge Remington 870 shotgun. Niggemeyer approached Gale from the opposite side of the stage past a group of security guards, and saw Gale lift his gun to Brooks’ head, and fired a single shot as Gale noticed him. Gale was struck in the face with eight of the nine buckshot pellets and killed instantly. Gale was found to have had 35 rounds of ammunition remaining.
Two fans administered CPR on Abbott until paramedics arrived, but were unable to revive him and he was pronounced dead at the scene. Early speculation about motive suggested that Gale, who was a Pantera fan, might have turned to violence in response to the breakup of the band, or the public dispute between Abbott and Pantera singer Phil Anselmo, but these were later ruled out by investigators. In VH1’s documentary, Behind the Music, Damageplan’s sound engineer Aaron Barnes stated that the whole time, after shooting Dimebag, Gale was looking for Vinnie, possibly planning to murder him too. Another conjecture was that Gale believed Abbott had stolen a song that he had written. About six months prior to the shooting, Gale got into an altercation at a Damageplan concert in Cincinnati where he damaged $5,000 worth of equipment while being removed from the stage by security.