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Preliminary Hearing Held for Man Who Fatally Shot 15-Year-Old Black Male Following a Verbal Altercation

Courtesy of Brad McElhinny/MetroNews

Courtesy of Brad McElhinny/MetroNews

Most children get between six and 10 colds per year. Others may suffer from broken bones, sprains, or maybe a bout of influenza. But for young black males, there are far worse things that could send them to the hospital, or even cause their death.

James Means, a 15-year-old from Charleston, WV, was shot to death last month after reportedly bumping into a man outside a Dollar General store. On December 1, the shooter, William Pulliam, 62, had his preliminary hearing before Kanawha Magistrate Mike Sisson. During the hearing, new information was revealed about the crime.

Charleston Police Detective Chris Lioi interviewed a number of witnesses at the scene, who said that James Means had been carrying a BB gun in his waistband earlier on in the day. Pullman told officials during his arrest that he’d seen Means carrying a gun when they first crossed paths, but that had not been confirmed until the hearing. The BB gun, which resembled a handgun, was found near the scene of the crime, concealed in a bag.

Detective Lioi also said that audio was recovered from a nearby home that revealed a voice believed to be Pulliam’s. Before Means was shot, the voice said, “That toy gun is going to get you f—ing killed.”

A video recording was also recovered, showing the events of the shooting in detail, Lioi testified. Although it was previously reported that Means was shot in the abdomen twice, video shows that he was shot once in the chest and fell to the ground. He then got up and started to run, ostensibly to his friend’s porch, where he had been when Pulliam arrived. As Means attempted to flee, Pulliam shot the teen in the back.
Means was transported to Charleston Area Medical Center’s General Hospital and pronounced dead.

The video has not been released outside of the Charleston Police Department.

“It’s not clear exactly what happened,” said Pulliam’s lawyer, Richard Hollicker. “Hopefully some day the state will let us see the video so we’ll know what happened. But today we don’t know what happened except the broad strokes. Those broad strokes reflect that Mr. Pulliam walked across the street away from the young men, Mr. Means came toward Mr. Pulliam; don’t know exactly what led up to it but Mr. Pulliam shot Mr. Means. None of that says premeditation.”

Kanawha County Assistant Prosecutor Maryclaire Akers argued that Pulliam’s actions were in cold blood.

Detective Lioi was the only one to testify during the preliminary hearing.

“What is your belief that the defendant says prior to the shooting?” Akers asked Loi.

“Prior to the shooting, there’s a house that has audio and it’s ‘That toy gun is going to get you f—ing killed,’” said Loi. “And James’s response is, ‘No, it isn’t.’”

Hollicker interjected and asked if James Means was heard at any other time during the audio recording.

“He’s heard screaming,” Lioi said.

Pulliam has expressed no remorse, saying that he was acting in self-defense. He told police that he was getting “another piece of trash off the street,” but also claims that his actions had nothing to do with race. Local officials say that evidence has been turned over to federal officials for investigation into hate crime charges.

Pulliam, who is being held in South Central Regional Jail, now awaits hearing by a grand jury by the request of Magistrate Mike Sisson. He is being charged with first-degree murder.