Book Author Recalls the 'Genuine Heroes' Who Were Murdered the Night 'Dimebag' Darrell Died

Robert Knight Archive/Redferns
Dimebag Darrell performs onstage with Pantera int he early 1990s.

Jeff Thompson.

Erin Halk.

Nathan Bray.

These three men aren’t famous like “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott, but Dec. 8 is a day to honor their memories as well.

Thompson, Halk and Bray are the other victims who were killed at Alrosa Villa in Columbus, Ohio. In the aftermath of the murders, their names didn’t draw as much newsprint as Abbott’s did. However, Chris A., who has been a music photographer for about 35 years, wanted to know more about them. His curiosity led him on an intense 17-month journey that involved communicating with nearly 200 sources (including the victims’ families) and writing A Vulgar Display of Power: Courage and Carnage at the Alrosa Villa. The 2007 book (MJS Music Publications) pays tribute to the trio by telling their life stories, and thoroughly examines how events unfolded on Dec. 8, 2004.

“I really wasn’t looking to write a book,” says Chris A. of the project. “I was more interested in trying to figure out what happened to the three guys.”

Thompson, who was head of security for Abbott’s band Damageplan, wrestled with assailant Nathan Gale before being fatally wounded. Halk, an Alrosa employee, was also shot when he attempted to take Gale down. Bray was a concert attendee who gave Abbott and Thompson CPR before Gale turned his gun on him.

“These guys are real, legit, genuine heroes. It would be nice if people knew who they were and recognized what they did,” says Chris A. He describes Thompson, 40, as “a lot more cultured than a guy who comes across at first glance as a big guy who provides security to bands. He really liked the rock’n’roll business, from what I was able to tell. He was very respected.” Thompson relied on his brain instead of his brawn to handle security situations, and had “a good way with convincing people to take a step back” when dealing with unruly fans.

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When it comes to Halk, 29, who was an ex-Marine like Gale, Chris A. believes the motto of “Semper Fidelis” never left him. “I have video of what happened that night. I’ve watched Erin Halk react to what’s going on. I could see him trying to figure out a solution and getting very frustrated trying to figure out how he could get to this guy and disarm him. Pretty courageous stuff.”

As for Bray, 23, the author says the young husband was a huge fan of Abbott’s who was “really stoked about being a dad” to his son, Anthony. “He was a real responsible guy with his family. He busted his butt to get out there and try to get a good job and build a career.” Bray’s loved ones told Chris A. they weren’t surprised that Bray tried to help his hero and Thompson. “I wish he’d stayed out in the audience, but he did what he thought he needed to do.

“I just hope that everybody out there gives these guys a little thought, thank them for trying to do the best they could and think about their families,” adds Chris A. “It’s a shitty time of the year to be thinking about the fact that one of your relatives got murdered 10 years ago.”

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Chris A. says he will be glad when the anniversary passes so the victims’ families can focus on other things, like the good times they had with their loved ones. He himself prefers to concentrate on the remarkable courage that Thompson, Halk and Bray displayed that night.

“Dimebag never really had any time to think about, comprehend or realize what was happening. It was that fast,” says Chris A. “These other guys though, they knew what they were facing, so you’ve got fear, adrenaline and all the other stuff that goes on when something like that occurs, and these guys dealt with it. It is pretty inspiring to me that these guys were willing to do what they did.”


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