A gunman charged on-stage at a nightclub in the United States and opened fire on the band and crowd, killing top heavy metal guitarist “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott and three other people before a police officer shot him dead, authorities said.
The gunman had a hostage in a headlock and appeared to be preparing to kill him when the officer shot him in the face with a rifle, a witness and police spokesman Sgt Brent Mull said.
The hostage escaped uninjured.
Two other people were taken to hospital – one was in intensive care and the other was stable, police said after the incident in Columbus, Ohio.
Police identified the gunman as Nathan Gale, 25, of Marysville, 25 miles northwest of Columbus.
Officers said they had no information on a motive or any connection to Abbott or his band, the Texas-based group Damageplan.
Damageplan had just begun its first song at Alrosa Villa club on Wednesday night when the gunman climbed onstage, started yelling and shot Abbott five or six times at point-blank range, witness Chris Couch said.
Sgt Mull said the gunman’s exact statement was unclear because of the loud music. He said some witnesses reported hearing an accusation about Abbott breaking up his former band, thrash-rock pioneer Pantera, but police could not confirm whether the speaker was the gunman or a fan.
Police believe there were earlier threats against the band, Mull said. He declined to give specifics.
Witnesses said the man, who was wearing a Columbus Blue Jackets hockey jersey over a hooded sweat shirt, jumped an eight foot wooden fence and was being followed through the crowd by club security.
After firing on the guitarist, the gunman shot a bouncer who had pulled him off the musician, while fans surged toward the exit.
The gunman then fired into the crowd of more than 250 people, Mull said.
He said Officer James D Niggemeyer, 31, patrolling nearby, arrived within two minutes of hearing the call. He saw one person lying dead and the suspect holding on another “pretty much in a headlock”.
He said the hostage was able to manoeuvre out of the way before the officer fired.
“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.”
Besides Abbott and Gale, police identified the dead as Nathan Bray, 23; Erin Halk, 29, and Jeff Thompson, 40.
Gale had a minor police record in Marysville, said Police Chief Floyd Golden. He was pulled over for driving with a suspended licence last month.
The tall, physically imposing Gale frequented Bears Den Tattoo Studio, staring at people and trying to get them to talk about music and bands, manager Lucas Bender said.
The shootings came exactly 24 years after John Lennon was shot to death outside his New York apartment building by a deranged fan.