Judge Sends Shooting of Black Teen in West Virginia to Grand Jury

By YAWANA WOLFE

(CN) – A West Virginia magistrate judge found there’s probable cause to pursue a murder charge against a 62-year-old white man accused in the shooting death of a black teenager last month and has sent the case to a grand jury.

According to police, William Pulliam shot 15-year-old James Means in the chest and back on November 21 after they bumped into each other outside a Dollar General store in  Charleston, West Virginia and exchanged words.

Pulliam has since said he was afraid that Means was going to harm him.

During a preliminary hearing, Kanawha County Magistrate Judge Mike Sisson heard from only one witness for the state: Christopher Lioi, head of the Charleston Police Department’s criminal investigation division.

Lioi said Pulliam not only admitted to the arresting officers that he had killed Means, but also said he killed the teen “because he was hassling me” and brandishing a weapon.

Much of Lioi’s testimony revolved around video footage of the incident which was not shown in court. Lioi said the video contradicted Pulliam’s account in that it does not show Means taunting or waiving a gun at the man before the fatal shots were fired.

During cross-examination by defense attorney Richard Holicker got Lioi to state that Means’ friend, Clayton Ferguson, had confirmed to officers that the victim had a black BB gun which he kept in his waistband. However, police noted that at the time of the shooting, the teenager had no weapon on his body and in video footage of the shooting, Means had his hands at his sides the whole time.

Lioi said the video shows Means crossing the street to the side Pulliam was on, and that as the teen stood there, arms down, Pulliam turned and  walked at least back at least ten feet to confront him.

Lioi said that in the audio from the recorded footage, Pulliam can be heard telling the teen, “That toy gun is going to get your head blown off.”

Means responded “No, it’s not,” at which point Pulliam said, “Pull it out again, motherfucker,” Lioi said.

Lioi said Pulliam shot Means in the chest an instant later, causing the teen to fall to the ground screaming.

Means got up and turned and to run to his friend’s house when Pulliam shot again, this time in the back, Lioi said.

Means collapsed on his friend’s front porch. Meanwhile, police said, Pulliam turned away and walked the short distance to his own home.

Holicker said neither he nor his client has seen the footage, and he argued that prosecutors should play it in court.

The FBI is currently investigating the incident as a hate crime.

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