Police Officer Who Stopped Dimebag Darrell’s Killer Reveals His Struggle to Cope in the Aftermath
To many people, James Niggemeyer is a hero -- the man who stopped the murderer whose rampage ended the life of former Pantera guitarist Dimebag Darrell on Dec. 8, 2004. But as he admitted during a recent interview with the Columbus Dispatch, the 10 years since that fateful night haven't been easy for him.
"I found out real quickly that you don’t have any control over your brain -- it’s going to do what it’s going to do," said Niggemeyer, who told the newspaper he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and severe anxiety disorder after the shooting. "Cops are regular human beings. Things affect us the same way they affect everyday citizens. We relive it and have to deal with the aftermath."
After arriving at the nightclub where the shooting took place -- and where the gunman remained onstage, firing into the crowd with a hostage in a headlock -- Niggemeyer entered through a back door and slowly approached the killer as he lined up his shot. The first one on the scene, he walked into the club without backup, and did the best anyone could have hoped under the circumstances -- but the incident also spelled the eventual end of his career on the police force.
Saying it "changed my career path -- not for the better, certainly," Niggemeyer added, "I’m happy to have been able to end the situation with no further tragedies after I arrived, but it certainly hasn’t made my life any better." The Dispatch's article emphasizes the silver lining to the tragedy, exploring the friendship that developed between Niggemeyer, club owner Rick Cautela and Andy Halk, brother of Erin Halk, a security guard killed in the act of trying to stop the gunman. As Halk put it, "We went through hell together. You develop a bond."
And for Niggemeyer, it's Halk and the others who jumped in before he arrived on the scene that truly deserve to be honored. "When tragedy strikes, there are people in this world who will step up and try to stop it. There are people who will stand up in the face of death and give their life to try to save others," he pointed out. "They did that with no police there, with no guns. Those are the true heroes to me."
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