Ten Years After Alrosa

Ten years after a deranged gunman opened fire on Damageplan, killing legendary Pantera guitarist “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott and three others, during a Dec. 8, 2004, concert at  in Columbus, Ohio, the venue remains open but life is permanently altered for three key figures in the shooting’s aftermath.

Photo: AP Photo / Paul Vernon
Roses outside Alrosa Villa in Columbus, Ohio, mark the 10th anniversary of the murder of “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott by a gunman who charged onto the venue’s stage and opened fire on Abbott and his band, Damageplan.

Alrosa owner Rick Cautela initially feared the venue would never reopen. In the years after the shooting, he spent “a fortune” defending himself against a lawsuit filed by Abbott’s family, according to the Columbus Dispatch. He still stages concerts at the venue, but not as often as before the shooting.

Columbus police officer James Niggemayer, who took down gunman Nathan Gale as he was about to shoot stage tech John Brooks, left the force after being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and severe anxiety disorder. He is still being treated.

Andy Halk, the brother of security guard Erin Hauk who was Gale’s second victim, returned to Columbus after the tragedy to reunite with the family he’d distanced himself from. Cautela said the Halk family was part of his inspiration for reopening Alrosa Villa.

Erin Halk “died trying to save lives,” Cautela told the Dispatch. “I’m indebted to him and his family forever.” In the days after the shootings, amid national coverage of the rampage and during a time when he was plagued by hateful emails and voice mails, Cautela figured the club would be among the casualties.

Some bands vowed to never play there, and some promoters stopped returning his calls, according to the paper. He said his decision to reopen was driven by the many fans of Alrosa Villa – the oldest continuously operating rock hall in the nation – who urged him not to let the actions of one man put an end to the music.

Now in its 40th year, the club hosts four or five concerts a month and has branched out from rock to include other genres, including reggae and country.

A recovering alcoholic, Cautela credits 30 years in the 12-step program with helping him deal with the night that will always be associated with his club. “My heart’s still broken for the Alrosa and for the people that died,” he told the Dispatch.

Cautela, Niggemayer and Halk have developed close friendships in the intervening decade, and still occasionally reunite at the Alrosa for concerts. Cautela has had no contact with the surviving members of Damageplan, which disbanded after the shooting.