West Virginia Regional Jail and Correctional Facility Authority(CHARLESTON, W. Va.) — Federal authorities said Wednesday they are reviewing the shooting death of a black teenager in West Virginia as a hate crime.
On Monday around 8:45 p.m., according to the criminal complaint, Charleston police responded to a report of a shooting in East Charleston, Kanawha County.
According to the complaint, James Means, 15, bumped into William Pulliam, 62, of East Charleston, and the two “exchanged words.” Pulliam then went into a store but when he came out and made his way home, he and Means again had a “verbal dispute.”
Pulliam admitted to shooting Means twice in the stomach with a .380 revolver “because he felt threatened,” according to the complaint. Means was taken to a hospital but later died.
Pulliam expressed no remorse for the slaying, according to the criminal complaint, which also noted Pulliam said that after the shooting, he’d eaten dinner and visited a friend.
“The way I look at it, that’s another piece of trash off the street,” he said, according to the complaint.
He has since denied making that comment. On Tuesday, he spoke to ABC affiliate WCHS-TV in Charleston, saying he feared for his life Monday night and that the shooting had nothing to do with race. Means is black and Pulliam is white.
“I don’t care if they’re white or black. Nobody is going to do me like that. It doesn’t make any difference he’s black,” Pulliam said.
Pulliam said that Means and two friends were taunting him that night.
“Believe me, I didn’t want to kill anybody but you know, they are not going to kill me,” he told WCHS-TV. “I felt my life was in danger. I’m sorry but, I mean, I’m 62 years old. … I work. I’m a good citizen. I don’t do anything to anybody, never have done anything to anybody.”
In an email to ABC News, the U.S. Attorney’s Office confirmed that federal authorities had been asked to review whether the shooting falls within the federal hate crimes statute.
“That review is in its early stages, and the fact that a review is being conducted should not be taken as any indication of what the review’s outcome will be,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Ruby said.
The hate crimes statute “establishes a maximum sentence of life imprisonment for willfully using a firearm to kill another person because of the victim’s actual or perceived race, color, religion or national origin.”
Means’ family also spoke out, saying they did not want friends or family to retaliate.
“I’m going to leave everything up to the courts to take care of this man and to do whatever they have to do to make him be punished as well as my son had to suffer and my family had to suffer through this,” Means’ mother, Nafia Adkins, told WCHS-TV.
Pulliam faces first-degree murder charges. If found guilty, he could face life behind bars. A preliminary hearing was set for Dec. 1.
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