Federal officials investigating shooting death of 15-year-old as a hate crime

James Means (L) and William Pulliam (R)
James Means (L) and William Pulliam (R)

CHARLESTON, W. Va. (CBS News) — Federal officials are investigating the shooting death of a black 15-year-old in West Virginia as a hate crime. Sixty-two-year-old William Pulliam has reportedly confessed, saying he felt threatened when confronted by the teen outside a Charleston convenience store Monday night.

The complaint signed by Charleston police reportedly said Pulliam wasn’t just unremorseful; he also referred to the victim as “trash.” And now the teen’s family said they’re putting their faith in the law to see justice done, reports CBS News correspondent Don Dahler.

The police complaint reportedly stated 15-year-old James Means was part of a group that engaged in a verbal confrontation with Pullium outside a Charleston convenience store. It escalated into violence, with Pulliam allegedly opening fire. The teen was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead with two gunshot wounds. Pulliam gave a jailhouse interview after his arrest, repeating what he says he heard from the group.

“‘What the f*** you say?’” I said, ‘Man, I didn’t say anything.’ I’m sorry, but, I mean, I’m 62 years old. I’m not going to take a bunch of punks beating me up,” Pulliam said.

The police complaint reportedly said Pulliam confessed, stating, “The way I look at it, that’s another piece of trash off the street.” Authorities are now looking into whether the shooting falls under the federal hate crime statute — killing someone because of their race.

“I just shot him. I mean, I felt my life was in danger,” Pulliam said. “I don’t care if they’re white or black. Nobody’s going to treat me like that. It doesn’t make any difference he’s black.”

Means’ family said this is not a time for revenge, but for justice.

“We don’t hold a grudge, so nobody else should hold a grudge,” said his aunt, Teresa Means. “We all have to forgive and let everything take its place.”

The Charleston Gazette-Mail reports that Pulliam was not allowed to have a gun because of a previous domestic violence conviction. A Thanksgiving peace walk for the teenager is set to take place in Charleston later Thursday morning.

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