December 10, 2004 at 05:00 AM EST

Nathan Gale, the 25-year-old ex-Marine who killed former Pantera guitarist Darrell ”Dimebag” Abbott and three others during an Ohio nightclub performance on Wednesday, was obsessed with Pantera and may have blamed Abbott for breaking up the popular thrash metal band, people who knew Gale said on Thursday. Gale stormed a Columbus nightclub stage at the beginning of a concert by Damageplan, Abbott’s new band, shouted something and began shooting before he was shot to death himself by a police officer.

Onetime friend Jeramie Brey told the Columbus Dispatch that Gale had once tried to pass off Pantera lyrics as his own. ”He was off his rocker,” Brey said. ”He said they were his songs, that Pantera stole them from him and that he was going to sue them.” Brey said Gale had also spoken of suing Pantera for stealing his identity.

Some witnesses to the shootings at the Alrosa Villa nightclub said that Gale had shouted at Abbott an accusation that the guitarist had broken up Pantera before shooting him several times at point-blank range. (Abbott and his brother, drummer Vinnie Paul, formed Damageplan in 2003 after Pantera split.) Gale also killed club employee Erin Halk, concertgoer Nathan Bray, and band bodyguard Jeff Thompson. He wounded band employees Chris Paluska and John Brooks, who remained hospitalized on Friday.

Tributes to Abbott came in the form of a vigil of hundreds of fans in the nightclub’s rain-swept parking lot, and in eulogies from the metal royalty who knew him. ”I’m absolutely beside myself with grief,” Ozzy Osbourne told MTV News. ”Pantera toured with me many, many times. I’ll always remember the signed guitar that he gave me at my 50th birthday party.” Korn frontman Jonathan Davis said, ”Darrell and Pantera were one of the main reasons I joined a metal band. This is a tragic loss for the music community and to all who knew him.” Megadeth leader Dave Mustaine issued a statement that said, ”I wish to thank and remember Darrell for his amazing life and the gift that he shared with me and so many others?. We must never forget his life and his gifts, his genius, his terrific personality, and the legacy he left behind to remember him by.”

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