‘Blessed to still be here’: Restaurant manager recovering after road-rage shooting on I-20

Jason Phillips is recovering after being shot Saturday during a road-rage encounter on I-20 in Atlanta.

Credit: GoFundMe

Credit: GoFundMe

Jason Phillips is recovering after being shot Saturday during a road-rage encounter on I-20 in Atlanta.

The manager of a popular Atlanta barbecue restaurant could be out of commission for up to a month after being shot during a road-rage encounter on I-20 over the weekend.

Jason Phillips considers himself lucky to be alive after his car was peppered with bullets in the eastbound lanes near the Downtown Connector. The assistant general manager for Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q said he was on his way to work about 3 p.m. Saturday when a man driving a white Nissan Maxima cut him off.

“Like anybody would, I flipped him off,” Phillips said. “He got up beside me again and his window was down. I looked over and I noticed he was pointing a gun at me.”

Phillips never heard the gunshots, but he saw them tear through his SUV and he felt the one that pierced his left thigh. He pulled over and called 911 as the two men in the white sedan sped away.

“It was weird. I looked down at my leg and my jeans were open,” he said, adding there were four holes in his passenger door and another in the back door. One of the bullets passed through Phillips’ backpack that was in the front passenger seat. Another struck the console.

The 45-year-old father called his wife to let her know what happened on his way to Grady Memorial Hospital. During his treatment, the hospital staff told him he was at least the 11th gunshot victim taken to Grady this year after a road-rage shooting. Several others ended up dying.

“They told me I was extremely lucky,” Phillips said. “Two inches higher and it would have gotten an artery. Any lower and it would have got a bone.”

Since the shooting, Phillips has been replaying the scenario over and over in his mind.

“What if my wife had been in the car? What if my son had been in the car?” he asked. “What if he had aimed a little higher? I’m very lucky, I’m very blessed to still be here.”

Phillips’ injury will not require surgery, but he’ll likely miss up to a month of work as he recovers. A GoFundMe page set up Monday has raised more than $5,000 to help cover medical expenses and support his family while he’s out of work.

The largest donation came from popular Atlanta chef and restaurateur Kevin Gillespie, a former “Top Chef” contestant with several James Beard Award nominations.

“Get well soon!” Gillespie wrote on the fundraising page. “I know your team wants to see you back at work as soon as you are ready!”

Jonathan Fox, who started Fox Bros. with his twin Justin, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution he’s grateful that his manager will be OK.

“He’s got a long road ahead of him,” Fox said. “We’re thankful that he’s going to be on the mend, and that he’s going to be able to get back to work soon.”

Phillips said his teenage son starts college at Georgia State University in the fall, so every little donation helps as he gets back on his feet. He also said he’ll think twice about how he reacts to bad drivers following Saturday’s close encounter on the interstate.

“Oh, I’m done. I’m going to drive like an 80-year-old grandfather from now on,” Phillips said. “If somebody wants to cut me off, they can cut me off. It’s definitely not worth it.”

Phillips thinks his SUV is probably totaled after being shot repeatedly. If it isn’t, he said he’ll sell it immediately so he isn’t reminded of his traumatic ordeal. “I don’t even want to sit in that car,” he said.

Atlanta police are still searching for the shooter, and Phillips said he hopes the man is captured quickly before something similar happens again.

— AJC staff writer Yvonne Zusel contributed to this article.