Big Chief and Shawn’s Split
Fans of the long-running Discovery Channel reality series “Street Outlaws” have been faithfully tuning in since June 2013. The thrilling show, which boasts over a dozen seasons and many spin-offs, documents the trials and tribulations of Oklahoma-based underground street racers – and it’s all thanks to the Outlaws, the larger-than-life characters who frequently butt heads with both suspicious characters and authority figures.
With that said, the Outlaws are often known to argue amongst themselves as well. In January 2021, Big Chief and Shawn – aka Murder Nova – became the talk of the town after breaking off their business partnership and going their separate ways. Both men have been a vital part of the show’s success since its inception, and know their stuff when it comes to cars – Big Chief began racing when he was just nine years old, whereas Shawn spent much of his childhood in his father’s autobody shop.
Big Chief and Shawn were not only close friends, but great business partners who ran Midwest Street Cars together. Naturally, fans feared that they’d had a falling out when they announced that they would be focusing on different projects. Luckily for them, Big Chief confirmed in a candid YouTube interview that they were still on good terms, but had grown apart and didn’t have the same priorities anymore.
So, what are both men up to these days? Big Chief is focused on racing, while Shawn is still a budding entrepreneur and has opened a new shop, 187 Customs, which he runs with his friend and fellow cast member Phantom.
Justin “Big Chief” Shearer was born in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1980. As mentioned, Justin’s love for street racing started during his formative years, watching the local races on Old Route 66.
In 1992, Justin’s family relocated to Oklahoma, but the TV star’s childhood was somewhat turbulent due to the tragic death of his father. Not much is known about his adolescence or early adult years, but Justin’s life was changed forever when he joined the successful “Street Outlaws” group. It must be said that along the way, he was supported 100% by his mother, who encouraged her son’s interest in cars, and helped him get a foot in the racing circuit.
Aged 26, the racing fanatic married his longtime girlfriend Allicia, whom he met aged 18 while working as a gas station attendant. The couple have since welcomed two new additions to the family named Covil and Corbin. Allicia shies away from the limelight, but reliable sources confirm that she works as a respiratory therapist. Sadly, Justin and Allicia divorced for unknown reasons in 2017, but the father-of-two from found love again with Jackie, who shares his passion for cars.
In April 2022, it was revealed that Justin would be leaving “Street Outlaws” behind forever. Diehard fans of the racer blamed his fellow cast member Precious, as many sources claim that the warring duo had a heated argument during filming that led to Justin walking away. The incident allegedly came about because Precious didn’t agree with many of the new rules that had been implemented that season; it was also said that Jackie stepped in to defend Justin.
— Street Outlaws (@StreetOutlaws) January 11, 2022
Justin later cleared the air in a YouTube video in which he denied the rumors, and explained the real reason for his departure, which was his disagreement with the production company’s rules and policies. Apparently, Justin was particularly against the “race your way in” rule by which winners of preseason races would become main cast members. It’s interesting to note that, according to Justin, most new cast members came from “Street Outlaws: Memphis”, the crew which Precious is part of.
Having walked away from the Outlaws, nobody knows what’s in store for Justin right now. However, he has several streams of income such as his automotive store, YouTube channel, and the lucrative brand endorsements that come his way on a frequent basis. From selling merchandise to promoting online businesses, Justin’s always got something up his sleeve, and he hasn’t ruled out returning to TV either.
Shawn “Murder Nova” Ellington was born in Merced, California, in November 1977; five years later, his family relocated to Sayre, Oklahoma, where his father, Richard, opened an auto body shop. Richard would soon “employ” his young son and have him help out around the shop; as Shawn grew, he and his father would work on hobby cars together, and find ways to make them faster, so it’s little surprise that Shawn now drives one of the fastest street cars in the US.
Continuing the family tradition, Shawn and Richard still work in the shop together, with Shawn’s son, Aiden. Despite having a collection of hobby cars that would make any automobile enthusiast green with envy, Shawn’s favorite is the Murder Nova – a ’69 Chevy Nova that comes equipped with GM 210 Turbo 400 Transmission and a custom fuel injector system.
Shawn married his longtime girlfriend Erin in December 2005, just two months before she would give birth to the couple’s only child. Erin is a staunch supporter of her husband, and often promotes his latest projects on her social media accounts. It seems that both parents want Aiden to grow up in a racing environment, as they often take him along to events, and post family photos of their days out at different circuits.
In May 2021, Shawn’s father Richard was injured while driving the family’s prized ’55 Chevrolet truck. The terrifying incident occurred during a Hinton Street Drags weekend racing event; Richard lost control of the vehicle and struck the guardrail at 98mph. The truck was one of Shawn’s earliest hobby cars and had recently come out of a decade-long hiatus following a makeover from the crew at 187 Customs; it appears that Shawn lent his father the vehicle for the street drag racing event.
According to Shawn, his father’s inexperience and the car’s astonishing speed were the problem. “The car didn’t kill him,” Shawn said after the incident. “He got lucky. To be honest, we had no idea the car was going to be that fast.” The car crash left a bittersweet taste in Shawn’s mouth, given the numberof hours he spent on it, but the good news is that nobody was hurt.
Murder Nova makes a bold move and a horrific crash devastates the 405.#StreetOutlaws starts NOW on Discovery.
Although many fans offered Shawn other ’55 Chevrolet trucks as a replacement, he wasn’t interested. In fact, he was already planning on rebuilding the vehicle again just a few days after the accident. The initial plans were to cut the front clip off, check the chassis, and replace every damaged body panel to leave it in better condition than before. “We’ve been through a lot with this car, and we’ll definitely go through a lot more,” Shawn said.
The Truth About “Street Outlaws”
“Street Outlaws” is often accused of having scripted or faked elements to make viewing more entertaining. The truth is that the show and its cast members had such a poor reputation in the mid-2010s that the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) threatened to take the licenses away of any drivers who participated in the series, and one unfortunate guy was even fired for making a cameo – although he later found work somewhere else.
There are plenty of safety measures in place to ensure that the Outlaws don’t get into accidents during the on-screen races. However, Big Chief and Dave Cornstock were both hospitalized despite said safety measures; Big Chief’s car landed him in a ditch while racing a fellow cast member, leaving him with a fractured collarbone and spinal cord injuries, whereas Dave’s car crashed against a wall, resulting in series injuries.
Despite most of the Outlaws having clean criminal records – apart from Rhett Jones, who was arrested for drug trafficking after selling crystal meth out of his workplace – there have been rumors of cast members fraternizing with criminals. In 2015, Shawn’s store was shot up by a mysterious gunman who then rode to the TV personality’s home on his motorbike. To this day, many fans think that Shawn got himself caught up with seedy gang activities; otherwise, how would the gunman know where he lived?
Pilgrim Studios, the production company behind “Street Outlaws”, has also been lambasted for glamorizing the risky world of street racing, despite most scenes being planned out in advance to minimize any mishaps. The spin-offs have received the same criticism: when it was revealed that most racers in “Street Outlaws: New Orleans” had joined the show without having any street racing experience, viewers described it as an accident waiting to happen. With that said, others thought that it was a positive experience for the drivers, that would allow them to make a name for themselves on the racing circuit.
“Street Outlaws” Deaths
Sadly, a number of deaths have been linked to the “Street Outlaws” franchise – Tyler Piddle, who made sporadic appearances during the show’s first season, was found dead at home under mysterious circumstances before seeing his episodes. Aged just 31 years old, no official cause of death was ever provided by his friends or family, but rumors swirled about the promising racer dying from suicide or substance abuse.
Although most viewers have forgotten about Tyler, the death of fellow cast member Butch DeMoss lingers in their memories due to the popularity he enjoyed in the drag racing circuit. With thousands of fans and years of experience, Butch was an inspiration to many racers, and died of a heart attack at the untimely age of 43.
Last but not least is Izzy Valenzuela, a former racer who was involved in – and possibly caused – an horrific car crash which resulted in two deaths. When Izzy lied about not being present at the scene, he was soon arrested, bringing his career to an abrupt halt. However, the incident has never been mentioned on the show, as it seems the other Outlaws prefer to forget about it.
In September 2018, Discovery was sued by a married couple claiming to have been assaulted during filming for “Street Outlaws: Memphis”. Filed in federal court by Chad and Genny Larkin, they alleged that the star of the show – Jonathan Day, known to many as JJ Da Boss – had been physically and verbally violent towards them.
According to the couple, Jonathan got in touch with Chad in September 2017 to set up a race that would be filmed for the show. Jonathan then allegedly said that “the invited racers should do everything possible to get into the Memphis Street Outlaws heads, because that is what the Memphis Street Outlaws were going to do to the invited racers.” When a heated exchange of words got out of hand, things escalated and turned ugly.
The lawsuit continued by saying that when Chad turned around, his wife yelled at him to “look out”. Chad then saw Jonathan and two other men running towards him from across the street; they then threw punches at him and tackled him to the ground. By then, Chad was face-up on his back, and Jonathan and another man punched him in the face and kicked him in the ribs several times.
Things got so bad that Chad feared for his life – and to make things worse, the producers of the show made no effort to stop the alleged incident. Instead, they continued to film, with one cameraman being instructed to come closer and get a better shot of the attack. Genny naturally tried to defend her husband but was then allegedly assaulted by a female Memphis Street Outlaws racer, who grabbed the back of her head and threw her to the ground.
The lawsuit asked for Chad to be awarded up to $5 million in compensatory and punitive damages apiece – Discovery declined to comment when contacted by various news outlets, and the outcome of the suit remains unclear.