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Heavy metal guitarist shot dead on stage by disgruntled fan

To those who loved him and his music, "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott was a fast and furious virtuoso guitarist who combined speed and aggression every time be picked up his instrument. During the 1990s, he speed and technical ability inspired scores of others in the world of heavy metal.

But on Wednesday night, Abbott, 38, was shot dead - apparently by a disgruntled fan. The attacker stormed on to the stage in Columbus, Ohio, and shouted at Abbot before shooting him five or six times. He then turned his weapon on the crowd, killing three people, before being shot dead by a police officer.

A police spokesman in Columbu said a lone patrol officer arrived at the club where Abbott's band, Damageplan, were playing shortly after the shooting started and was able to shoot dead the assailant. "If the officer wasn't as close as he was, I think this would have been a lot worse. It was a chaotic scene, just a horrific scene."

Abbott, 38, had a huge following among fans, mostly as a result of his membership of the influential, Grammy-nominated thrash band Pantera.

Police are understood to be examing amateur video footage taken during the concert.

Damageplan were formed last year after Pantera split amid intense acrimony between Abbott, the lead guitarist, and the band's vocalist. Yesterday the band's website simply carried a photograph of Abbott with the words: "Dimebag Darrell - 1966-2004."

Ashley Bird, editor of the British metal magazine Kerrang! said: "He was a huge figure when it came to metal - everybody knew him. During the 90s he was one of those responsible for making really heavy music popular. He was an amazing guitarist, totally respected. He was very fast and very technical - amazing solos."

The shooting happened shortly after 10pm as the band opened their set at the Alrosa Villa club. Witnesses said the gunman, identified as 25-year-old Nathan Gale, shouted something at Abbott about the break-up of Pantera. Chris Couch, who was in the crowd, told reporters he saw Gale climb on the stage, followed by a bouncer and another club employee. Mr Couch said Gale shot Abbott before shooting and wounding the bouncer. "It was definitely a grudge," he said.

The police spokesman said that by the time the officer, James Niggemeyer, arrived at the club, the gunman was holding a hostage and pointing his weapon at his or her head. When Gale moved away from the stage, the officer shot him.

As fans left flowers outside the club yesterday, others spoke of their shock. Howard Jones, of the metal band Killswitch Engage, who toured with Damageplan, told MTV: "This is insane. This is beyond anything I've ever heard. This shouldn't happen in or outside of the rock and metal community."

Abbott's brother, Vinnie, drummer for both Pantera and Damageplan, told the Dallas Morning News at the time the new band were formed that some fans might take time to adjust: "Damageplan carries on the tradition Pantera started, the hell-raising tradition we were all about. Change is something that people have a hard time accepting."