No charges filed in deadly I-24 road rage shooting in Marion County

DA: ‘Valid case of self-defense’

Staff Photo / Eastbound traffic backs up on Interstate 24 in January 2015, near Haletown, Tenn.
Staff Photo / Eastbound traffic backs up on Interstate 24 in January 2015, near Haletown, Tenn.

The shooter in a deadly road rage incident on Interstate 24 in August 2022 will not face charges after the District Attorney General's Office in Marion County, Tennessee, determined the shots were fired in self-defense.

"We reviewed it, and we concluded that the shooting was justified, and we are not going to present it to the grand jury," Assistant District Attorney Steve Strain said in a phone interview. "The proof is such that it was a valid case of self-defense."

The person killed Aug. 23 was identified as Heath Steele, 43, of Jackson County, Alabama, Marion County investigators said at the time.

During the initial investigation, Marion County Sheriff's Detective Gene Hargis said Steele was reportedly 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.

(READ MORE: What are 'stand your ground' laws, and when do they apply?)

As traffic passed on the dim highway, 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.

The man who fired the shots had a valid concealed carry permit, Hargis said. He has not been identified by authorities.

The shooting occurred several hours after a Tennessee Highway Patrol helicopter crashed near the interstate after striking high-tension power lines over I-24, killing both aboard, 40-year-old Marion County Sheriff's Detective Matt Blansett and Highway Patrol pilot Sgt. Lee Russell, 35, of McKenzie, Tennessee.

The determination not to file charges was made earlier this year in a letter to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Strain said.

"We waited until we got the autopsy back on the victim, and the TBI worked it until we got all the stuff from TBI. We reviewed it and discussed and made a decision not to present it to the grand jury," he said.

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

An acquaintance inquiring on the case status on behalf of Steele's family said Wednesday in an email that no one had heard any updates. That person didn't immediately respond to requests for more details.

Strain said Friday he had spoken with one family member who called recently about the investigation and told them no charges were being filed.

"It's a sad situation but we're not going to present it," Strain said Friday.

According to his obituary, Steele, of Stevenson, Alabama, was the father of two children.

Contact Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6569.