After a 15-year-old black teenager was shot dead, the white suspect allegedly said that he had gotten “another piece of trash off the street.” James Means was killed on the night of November 22 in the town of Charleston, West Virginia. The man charged with first-degree murder in the case is William Pulliam, 62. Pulliam told officers that he felt threatened by the teen. The pair had an argument prior to the shooting outside of a nearby store.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Means Wanted to Become a Mechanic & Open His Own Shop in Charleston
Means had been a member of Dream Chasers, a group that teaches at-risk youths leadership skills. Founder Obi Henderson told WSAZ, “James was the kid that was excited about working, just working. James wanted to be a businessman and open up a mechanic shop.”
Means’ aunt, Teresa Means, told WSAZ, “James was an awesome kid. (He) could put a smile on anybody’s face, no matter the situation.” While his mother, Nafia Adkins, said, “My son is in a safer place now, and we all love him… We know that justice is going to succeed in this matter. We are not going to put it in our hands. We are going to let the law put it in their hands.”
The West Virginia Metro News reports that Means was “between schools” at the time of his death. Henderson told WSAZ about Means’ mother saying, “James had three other siblings. James’ mother is your average west side mother working diligently to provide for her children and so now she has figure out and develop resources to put her son six feet under ground.”
2. Officials Have Reached Out to the DOJ to See if the Shooting Qualifies as a ‘Hate Crime’
The shooting occurred at the intersection of Nancy Street and Washington Street East in Charleston. The pair had an argument outside of a nearby Dollar General store. Pulliam accused Means of bumping into him. Afterward, Pulliam went into the store and Means went to a nearby home, the home of a friend’s grandmother.
When Pulliam left the store, he passed by Means again. The two again exchanged words at which point Means confronted Pulliam in the street. That’s when the gunfire rang out. James Means was shot twice in the abdomen. He died later at Charleston Area Medical Center General Hospital.
When he was interrogated by officers, Pulliam admitted to the shooting saying that he “felt threatened.” He also allegedly described Means as “another piece of trash off the street,” according to the Associated Press. The agency quotes Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Ruby as saying that investigators are “in the early stages” of determining if this will be a hate-crime case.
Obi Henderson told WSAZ about these comments saying, “The fact that this man referred to two young African-American males, youth as trash is very disheartening and discouraging. … that in 2016, people walk around with such hate in their heart.”
Authorities have described Pulliam as having “no remorse.” Officials added that after the shooting, Pulliam went to have dinner at a female friend’s home, reports WCHS-TV. It was there that investigators found his .380 revolver.
3. Pulliam Was Accused of Punching His Pregnant Daughter in the Face in 2013
The West Virginia Gazette-Mail reports that due to a previous domestic violence conviction, Pulliam is forbidden from owning a gun. In 2013, the newspaper also says that Pulliam punched his pregnant daughter in the face and kicked her in the stomach. He was sentenced to 36 days in prison and given a year’s probation for the crime.
One of Means’ friends, Teonno White, 14, told the Gazette-Mail that he’s had altercations with Pulliam previously. White says Pulliam would “pick on” White’s younger brother. The teen said, “One time I went over there to talk to him about it, I said, ‘You’’ve got to quit picking on my little brother, that doesn’t look right.” White says Pulliam replied, “[You] need to go on with my nappy Latino self. He’s just a real bad guy.” He added that he has called the police on Pulliam before.
Pulliam will be in court on December 1 at the Kanawha County Magistrate Court. He will be represented by a court-appointed attorney. The West Virginia Gazette-Mail reports that Pulliam has said he understands he could face life in prison if convicted. The newspaper also says that Pulliams “muttered something” about going on hunger strike.
4. A Go Fund Me Page Has Been Set Up to Help Means’ Family Pay for the Funeral
A Go Fund Me page has been set up to help Means’ family pay for his funeral costs. At the time of writing the page has raised over $10,000. The original goal had been $3,000. The tribute reads, “James Means ,a 15-year-old boy, was shot and killed Monday night. We could use your help with anything you can give , to provide a respectful memorial for this special young man. Thank you for all of your support, kind words, and messages. We are forever grateful.”
5. Columnist Shaun King Has Compared Means to Emmett Till & Trayvon Martin
In a hard-hitting column published after the shooting, the New York Daily News’ Shaun King wrote that “Means, like Emmett Till and Jordan Davis and Trayvon Martin before him, did nothing to ever even warrant a confrontation from Pulliam. Witnesses claim that what set Pulliam off was that Means accidentally bumped into him while entering the store.” The column concludes with the words, “Now, instead of preparing for a Thanksgiving together, the family and friends of James Means find themselves struggling to make sense of how truly ugly our country can be.”
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