Judge sends radio host Jeff Styles' vandalism, assault charges to grand jury

Jeff Styles
Jeff Styles

A Chattanooga radio host's charges that he instigated a road rage incident that led to him being shot in the arm are heading to a Hamilton County grand jury.

Following a preliminary hearing Tuesday in General Sessions Court, Judge Gary Starnes found probable cause for Jeff Styles' vandalism and aggravated assault charges and sent them onto the next stage of the criminal justice process.

photo Jeff Styles

If a grand jury returns an indictment, Styles' case will continue onto Hamilton County Criminal Court, where attorneys will either work toward a settlement, dismissal or trial in connection with the June 15 incident.

The WGOW host has since been placed on leave.

Police said Styles swung a tomahawk into driver Nickolas Bullington's window while they were stopped at the intersection of Highway 153 and Grubb Road around 4 p.m. Police said Bullington shot Styles with a pistol and then left to find a safe place to call authorities. Bullington had seen Styles driving aggressively on Highway 27, police said, and a witness backed up his account.

In a statement he issued through his attorney, Lee Davis, Styles said he was acting out of self-defense.

Styles said the incident started on Highway 111 when he tried to pass a slow-moving tractor trailer and Bullington drove up behind him at an excessive speed. Styles said he "raised his hand" to tell Bullington to back off. In response, Styles said, Bullington flipped him "a bird," followed him between lanes and then made a "gun-firing motion" with his hand as he drove beside Styles.

The incident further escalated, Styles said, when Bullington brandished a handgun as he drove behind Styles. Bullington followed him onto Highway 27, Styles said, and then down the Highway 153 ramp, pointing to the weapon in his lap.

At this point, "convinced that Bullington was going to pull up beside him and shoot him, Styles grabbed his military-grade tomahawk and jumped out of his vehicle," attorney Davis wrote in the statement.

"Simultaneously, Bullington pointed his handgun at Styles and Styles swung once at Bullington's driver-side window," Davis wrote. "Bullington fired his gun, hitting Styles in the right arm."

According to news reports from Channel 9, Judge Starnes didn't consider Styles getting out of his vehicle with a tomahawk to be self-defense and said he was amazed Bullington didn't kill him.

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