Magistrate finds probable cause in East End shooting

A 15-year-old boy had nothing in his hands when he was shot and killed Nov. 21 on Charleston’s East End, a city detective testified Thursday before a Kanawha County magistrate found probable cause to send the case to a grand jury.

Video footage, the detective added, doesn’t support the claims William Pulliam, 62, initially made to police — that 15-year-old James Means showed him a BB gun after an argument Nov. 21 outside the Dollar General store, near the intersection of Nancy Street and Washington Street East.

Means did keep a BB gun in his waistband, Charleston Detective Chris Lioi said. That was something he discovered during his investigation into the teen’s death. That toy gun was located in a bag belonging to a witness of the shooting, according to the detective.

Pulliam is charged with first-degree murder stemming from Means’ death. Kanawha County Magistrate Mike Sisson on Thursday found probable cause to send the case to a grand jury.

Means was shot in the back and chest, Lioi testified Thursday.

The teen fell to the ground after the gunshot to his chest. When he got up, he turned to run away and was shot in the back, Lioi said.

Before Means was shot, Lioi testified, Pulliam told the teen, “That toy gun is going to get you f-----n’ killed.”

“No, it’s not,” Means responded, according to the detective, who said he had watched surveillance footage of the shooting which contains both audio and video.

Lioi repeated Thursday that Pulliam, who is prohibited from possessing a firearm because of a prior domestic violence conviction, showed no remorse after his arrest.

“He told me he shot him because he was hassling him,” Lioi testified.

The detective wrote in a criminal complaint last week that Pulliam said, “The way I look at it, that’s another piece of trash off the street.”

Pulliam also eventually admitted to police that it might not have been a gun in Means’ hands that Pulliam says he saw, the detective said Thursday. Pulliam initially told police that Means ran at him with a gun and threatened to “pop a cap in your ass,” Lioi testified.

Police obtained video footage from the Dollar General, the house directly beside Pulliam’s and from a different house on Washington Street, the detective said. All of the footage collected by police shows the shooting incident, Lioi said.

“At the very end, Mr. Pulliam is heard saying, ‘Pull it out again, mother [expletive],’” the detective testified.

Richard Holicker, one of Pulliam’s lawyers, who is a deputy public defender in Kanawha County, objected to Lioi being allowed to testify based on his recollection of the video footage, which Holicker and his client have not seen. Holicker argued that prosecutors should play the footage in the courtroom.

Holicker asked questions about the quality of the footage. Could those in the video be easily identified, he asked Lioi, who said that although it was dark outside, the incident occurred under a street lamp.

Witnesses saw and heard Pulliam and Means exchange words after the two physically bumped into each other on the sidewalk near Dollar General, Lioi wrote in a criminal complaint last week charging Pulliam with murder. After the argument, Pulliam entered the store, while Means joined friends on the nearby porch of his friend’s grandmother’s home.

When Pulliam left from the store and walked past the porch where Means and his friends had gathered, the two argued again, and after Means crossed Washington Street East to approach Pulliam, Means was shot.

“None of that says premeditation. None of that says intentional, deliberate, premeditated murder,” Holicker told the magistrate. “It’s a killing, but it’s not a premeditated murder.”

Assistant Kanawha Prosecutor Maryclaire Akers said, though, that while Means crossed the street, it was Pulliam who approached Means.

Means “crossed the street and he stood where he crossed,” said Akers. “It was the defendant who walked approximately 10 feet. He goes toward the victim approximately 10 feet.

“He stands in front of the victim and he says, ‘That toy gun is going to get your head blown off.’ The boy says, ‘No it’s not.’ He then shoots the boy, the boy falls down. He gets up to run away — he doesn’t shoot at the defendant with anything — he’s trying to run away when the defendant shoots him again, in the back.”

“The victim then runs to the house from which he came and collapses,” Akers told the magistrate. “That is not self defense. That is willful, premeditated, deliberate killing. It is first-degree murder and we ask that you find probable cause.”

Reach Kate White at kate.white@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-1723 or follow @KateLWhite on Twitter.

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