Talk Radio Host Says He "Went Redneck" When He Used A Tomahawk To Go After Man With A Gun; Judge Sends Charges Against Jeff Styles To Grand Jury

Tuesday, August 7, 2018
Jess Styles testifies
Jess Styles testifies

Talk Radio host Jeff Styles testified Tuesday that he "went redneck" when he decided to use a tomahawk to go after a man with a gun in an incident at a red light on Highway 153 on June 15.

Attorney Lee Davis said Styles, who wound up shot in the right arm, was acting in self defense because he feared the other man was about to shoot him when the light turned green.

However, General Sessions Court Judge Gary Starnes said he found no way that self defense could apply in behalf of Styles. He told him, "You said you went redneck, but why would you do that? When you go after a man with a gun with a tomahawk, you're going to get shot. 

"I'm just amazed he didn't kill you. Most people would have shot at the center mass or the face.

"You should never have gotten out of that car and none of this would have happened."

Bound over against Styles were charges of aggravated assault and vandalism. The other man, in the road rage incident, Nick Bullington, was not charged.

The two combatants gave widely different versions at the preliminary hearing.

Bullington said it started on Highway 27 and Styles said it was while they were going down Highway 111.

Styles said Bullington waved a gun at him several times. Bullington said the gun was in his console until just before the tomahawk attack.

Bullington said he had left work at La-Z-Boy in Dayton and was on his way to Chattanooga State. He said there there two vehicles in front of him when Styles squeezed in just ahead of him and just behind the two cars out front.

He said, "They hit their brakes. I had to hit my brakes."

Bullington said Styles then "brake checked me" and then "he tried to get me to pull over on the side of the road to fight him."

Instead, he said he "took off" and "I thought it was the last time I'd see that gentleman."

However, Bullington said he found himself just behind the Styles vehicle at a red light at Grubb Road. He said Styles, when he saw him, "threw it in reverse and pulls to my right front bumper. Then he got out and waved a hatchet at me."

He said that is when he pulled a 9mm handgun from the glove compartment and put it in his lap. He said when the other driver came to his side of the vehicle and began striking his truck in the side and the window with the hatchet he then fired. 

Bullington said he had been talking to his girlfriend the whole trip and he then told her "I've got to call the police."

He said he put the gun back in the glove compartment, then sped away because he was still fearful of the man with the hatchet. He said, after crossing the C.B. Robinson Bridge, he pulled over at the Riverwalk entrance and called police.

Bullington denied provoking Styles. He said, "I was just minding my own business."

Under cross examination, Bullington agreed he does not have a gun carry permit.

A police investigator said Styles told him he "went red" and he blacked out during part of the incident.

Items in the Styles vehicle included the military-style tomahawk, three loaded handguns and a machete. He said some of the items were part of a wilderness survival kit.

The investigator said there are several witnesses, including the girlfriend who was on the phone the whole time and two people who saw the encounter at Grubb Road. 

Styles said he had been on his way to the Riverbend Festival, where he was due to introduce a couple of bands he had booked. 

He said he was going down Highway 111 when traffic slowed and a vehicle "came screaming up behind me. He must have been going 95 or a hundred miles an hour."

Styles said he gestured toward the man to "please get back" and he responded by "flipping me a bird." 

Styles said he worked his way to the right lane, but the man "stayed on my tail no matter where I went or what I did."

At one point he said the man was no longer just behind him, then he saw the vehicle was beside him forcing him off the road. He said the driver was brandishing a gun. Styles said, "I was quite frightened. I was very nervous."

Styles said when he reached Highway 27 he began driving 85 mph. He said, "I was begging to get pulled over. When you drive that fast, it's a 100 percent chance you will get stopped at one of the Soddy Daisy exits."

However, he said he was able to get to the Highway 153 exit and he decided to turn there instead of continuing straight on to Riverbend.

He said he looked back and spotted the same truck on Highway 153 eight or nine vehicles back. Then he said the truck had worked itself directly behind him at the red light.

Styles, who said he had taken Adderall medication that morning, said he "believed in every fiber of my body" that as soon as the light turned green the man was going to pull beside and shoot him.

He said he chose not to arm himself with one of the guns. He said, "I can hit what I shoot." But he said that would have left the other man dead, himself charged with murder, and he would have immediately been fired from his longtime job at WGOW.

Styles said he got back in the SUV he was driving and made it about 20 feet down a side street. He then called police. He said he was bleeding profusely and his arm was going numb. He said he was fortunate that the shot did not hit an artery or a nerve bundle.

Styles denied that he blacked out and he said he meant by "going red" - not in road rage - but in "redneck" mode. "I'm a Southern male," he said.

He stated, "I think God guided my hand to the perfect tool" - the tomahawk. He noted he is 6'3" and 225 and said he wanted to present an imposing figure while wielding the unusual road weapon.

He said it was "a show of force for him to get off my butt. I wanted to scare him off and defend myself."

Prosecutor Rachel Ortwein asked, "So you bring a tomahawk to the gun party?"

Styles said he had hoped to knock the gun away from the other man. He said, "I followed my instincts."

He testified, "He shot me like a dog. I did not think he would shoot me in the face. That was my only mistake."

The prosecutor said, "No, I think there were several mistakes."

WGOW suspended Styles after the charges were brought. Assistant Program Director Bill Lockhart was monitoring the hearing.











Nick Bullington testifies
Nick Bullington testifies

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