Authorities said a 62-year-old white man in Charleston, W.Va., showed no remorse when he admitted that he fatally shot a black teenage boy earlier this week during a heated encounter in the city’s East End.
The Charleston Gazette-Mail reported that William Ronald Pulliam has been charged with murder in the shooting death of the teen, who was identified in local news reports as 15-year-old James Means.
“The way I look at it, that’s another piece of trash off the street,” Pulliam reportedly told police, according to a criminal complaint cited by the newspaper.
William Pulliam appears through video arraignment now. He faces a first degree murder charge. He is being held with no bond. pic.twitter.com/3AqvcjBX1i
— Jessi Starkey (@JessiWCHS) November 22, 2016
Charleston police have now called on federal authorities to determine whether the case could be considered a hate crime, according to the Associated Press.
“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, according to the Gazette-Mail.
The newspaper reported the 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.”
It was not immediately clear whether Pulliam had an attorney.
In an exclusive jailhouse interview with ABC affiliate WCHS, Pulliam denied he made the remarks to police and said the shooting had nothing to do with race.
“I don’t care if they’re white or black,” he said. “Nobody is going to do me like that. It doesn’t make any difference if he’s black. My God, everybody that lives around here is black. I get along with all of them — ask them.”
— Bob Aaron (@BobAaronWCHS) November 24, 2016
Witnesses told police that Pulliam and the teen knocked into each other on the street Monday night near a Dollar General and got into an argument, according to a criminal complaint cited by the Gazette-Mail.
Pulliam then went into the store and the teen sat down with some friends on a nearby porch, according to the court records.
On his way back, Pulliam passed by the porch and the two continued to argue, witnesses told police. The teen crossed the street and, as he approached, Pulliam allegedly shot him twice, according to the reports.
But Pulliam told WCHS that as he was walking to Dollar General, the teen and his friends were laughing and threatening him.
“The guy goes, ‘What the f— did you say?’ I said, ‘Man, I didn’t say anything,” Pulliam told the news station, alleging that the teen flashed a gun at him and the teen’s friends encouraged him to pull the trigger.
Pulliam said that he walked on to the convenience store. On the way back, he said, he set out on the opposite side of the street to avoid them, but the teen crossed the road and started taunting him again with a gun.
“I just shot him,” Pulliam told WCHS.
“I felt my life was in danger. I’m sorry, but I’m 62 years old — I’m not going to take a bunch of punks beating me up,” he added.
Police said Pulliam shot the 15-year-old twice in the abdomen, according to the Charleston Gazette-Mail. The teen was rushed to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead, police said.
The Gazette-Mail reported that Pulliam shot the teen with a revolver, though it’s unclear to whom the weapon belonged. Pulliam is not permitted to carry a gun because he was once convicted in a domestic violence case, according to the newspaper. Still, Pulliam told WCHS that he is a “good citizen.” “I don’t do anything to anybody — never have done anything to anybody,” he said.
“I don’t like it. I mean believe me, I did not want to kill anybody but, you know, they’re not going to kill me,” he told the news station.
Following the deadly encounter, Pulliam allegedly went to dinner and then to visit a female friend, according to the criminal complaint.
In 2013, Pulliam pleaded guilty to domestic battery.
According to another criminal complaint in Kanawha Magistrate Court, Pulliam struck his pregnant daughter in the face several times with a closed fist and kicked her in the stomach. He also shoved his wife to the ground during that incident, according to the complaint.
Pulliam’s daughter had visible bruising to her left eye and was bleeding from her lip, Charleston Police Cpl. P.S. Kapeluck wrote in the January 2013 complaint, and Pulliam’s wife was bleeding from her elbow.
Prosecutors dropped one count of domestic battery, and Pulliam pleaded no contest to the other. He was sentenced to 36 days in jail, but Kanawha Family Judge Mike Kelly, who retired in 2014, suspended that sentence. The judge placed Pulliam on a year’s probation and gave him credit for six days he had already spent in jail.
After Monday’s shooting, Nafia Adkins, the boy’s mother, said, “My son is in a safer place now, and we all love him,” according to NBC affiliate WSAZ.
Adkins said she is putting her trust in the legal system.
“We know that justice is going to succeed in this matter,” she said, according to the news station. “We are not going to put it in our hands. We are going to let the law put it in their hands.”
This story has been updated.