A New Jersey detention officer has been suspended from his job for posting on Facebook that a five-year-old boy, who was shot dead while riding his bicycle, ‘should’ve ducked’.
Cannon Hinnant, of North Carolina, was killed while riding his bike in his driveway on August 9. A neighbor, 25-year-old Darius Nathaniel Sessoms, has been charged with first-degree murder in connection to his death.
After Cannon’s murder made national headlines, Rome Smith, who is Black and an officer at the Juvenile Detention Center in Cumberland County, allegedly wrote: ‘He should’ve ducked. Y’all always trying to sneak diss and discredit a black person being killed innocently by police.
‘Blame cannon’s parents for not watching him!!! F Y’ALL,’ a screenshot of Smith’s alleged post reads.
The posts have since been deleted and Smith’s Facebook appears to be disabled.
In a statement to NBC, Cumberland County officials called the post ‘shockingly insensitive and racist in tone.
‘We will not tolerate county employees using social media to broadcast hateful messages,’ Cumberland County Freeholder Director Joseph Derella said.
‘This is not who we are and we intend to pursue the strongest action available to us.’
Smith’s post stemmed from other social media posts that have suggested that race was a factor in Cannon’s death.
But the little boy’s parents have shut down those claims. Austin Hinnant, Cannon’s father, said: ‘This is no racial issue.’
Cannon’s mother, Bonny Waddell, said: ‘This is not a race issue. This was…I don’t even know what it was. I know it wasn’t race.’
Waddell also shared a Facebook post over the weekend that urged people to stop comparing her son’s death to that of George Floyd, a Black man who died under the knee of a white Minneapolis police officer.
‘THIS HAS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH RACE AND DO NOT COMPARE THIS TO FLOYD!’ Waddell wrote.
‘MY SWEET CANNON NEVER SAW COLOR, HE LOVED EVERYBODY. HE WAS INNOCENT, LOVING … AND THIS CRUEL MAN TOOK HIM AWAY FROM US FOR NO REASON.
Cannon’s grieving family laid him to rest on Thursday, just days after he was fatally shot in their driveway.
Earlier this week, Cannon’s mother, Bonny Waddell, told KCTV 5, that her ‘baby didn’t deserve this,’ adding that she wants the death penalty for Sessoms.
‘We lost a big piece of our family,’ Waddell said through tears.
Cannon’s father, Austin Hinnant, said he also agrees with seeking the death penalty.
The family had only asked for $5,000 in donations to help with Cannon’s funeral, but they’ve received more than $798,000 as of Wednesday afternoon.
The donations poured into a GoFundMe page organized by Gwen Hinnant, who identifies herself on the website as Cannon’s grandmother.
‘This family has faced unimaginable pain because of this senseless act of violence,’ the page reads.
Merrill Race joined others at his grandson’s funeral on Thursday night to remember him as a ‘kid that was always polite, kind of laid back, but he was a beautiful little kid’.
Cannon’s youth pastor, Daryl High, said the boy was always a joy in Sunday school.
‘His smile is huge. His personality is big. You could not help to be changed when you met Cannon. If a word wasn’t said, you can’t help to be changed,’ High said.
Austin Hinnant told The Wilson Times that the boy had been playing with his sisters outside when he heard a gunshot nearby.
He said he rushed outside and found his son lying on the ground. When he scooped the boy into his arms, he realized his son had a gunshot wound to the head.
‘That is why this is so horrific to me,’ Hinnant said. ‘He was doing something he loved.’
Hinnant told the newspaper that he and Sessoms were friendly and he always checked in with Sessoms’ parents, who lived next door.
The night before the shooting, Hinnant was grilling chicken, saw Sessoms ‘sitting in his car, like he had a lot on his mind’ and asked if he wanted to eat.
The two shared a beer on the front porch, Hinnant said, adding that he saw no foreshadowing of what was ahead.
‘I have no idea why he did what he did,’ Hinnant said. ‘It was literally out of nowhere. He puts a gun to my son’s head and shoots him.’
Sessoms’ parents said they believe their son was on drugs and having hallucinations at the time of the shooting.
As of Wednesday afternoon, authorities have not released a motive for the killing.