Authorities investigate deadly I-24 road rage shooting in Marion County, Tennessee

Incident happened shortly after fatal THP helicopter crash

Staff photo by Ben Benton / Traffic passes under the Scratch Ankle Road bridge over Interstate 24 in Marion County, Tenn.

An investigation is ongoing into a fatal shooting Tuesday night on Interstate 24 that happened in the hours following a deadly Tennessee Highway Patrol helicopter crash that claimed two lives including a local officer, redoubling a day of tragedy in Marion County, Tennessee.

Investigators told Marion County Sheriff Ronnie "Bo" Burnett the "road rage" shooting happened around 8 p.m. CDT after one vehicle bumped another and an altercation quickly escalated into gunfire and left an Alabama man dead, the sheriff said Thursday in a phone interview.

(READ MORE: Marion community reeling in wake fatal helicopter crash that claimed two lives)

"They got into it, the guy (who fired shots) backed up and tried to get away from him and finally had to use deadly force," Burnett said Thursday in a phone interview. "The guy has not been charged yet. He was interviewed, and they talked to the assistant district attorney, and he advised them to gather all the information up and take it to the grand jury."

The sheriff said the grand jury presentation would probably be made in October.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is assisting in the investigation, he said.

(READ MORE: Chattanooga police seek suspect in road rage incident involving woman and son)

The shooting occurred near mile marker 158 on the eastbound side of the interstate while most state and local authorities in the area were searching for the downed helicopter on Aetna Mountain, just north of I-24, Burnett said.

The person killed Tuesday was identified as Heath Steele of Jackson County, Alabama, Marion County Sheriff's Detective Gene Hargis said Thursday in a phone interview. Hargis said the man who fired the shots is not being identified for now.

"It's unclear if it was a self-defense situation at this point," the detective said.

Hargis said Steele was following the other man's vehicle too closely and was driving erratically, then pulled into the fast lane in front of the other man and slammed on the brakes, forcing the other driver to stop.

On the darkened highway as traffic passed, Hargis said, Steele quickly and aggressively approached the vehicle of the other man, who drew a handgun and fired twice, striking Steele both times. Steele, who had no weapon, was pronounced dead at the scene, Hargis said.

Hargis said the man who fired the shots had a valid concealed carry permit.

Steele's body was sent to Nashville for an autopsy, according to Hargis. He said the investigation is continuing.

Contact Ben Benton at or 423-757-6569. Follow him on Twitter @BenBenton.