The father of a five-year-old boy shot dead in the yard of his North Carolina home in front of his two sisters has ‘no idea’ why their neighbor allegedly targeted his family.
Darius Sessoms, 25, who lives next door with his parents, is charged with the murder of Cannon Hinnant after the shocking shooting on Sunday left the local community dumbstruck and police searching for any kind of motive.
Cannon’s heartbroken father Austin said he has lived beside Sessoms and his parents for eight years and while he wouldn’t say they were friends, there was ‘no bad blood whatsoever’ between them and no previous confrontations.
Austin remains devastated and confused after revealing Sessoms shared a beer with him on the porch just hours before he allegedly shot Cannon in the head at point-blank range as the young boy played on his bike.
‘I have no idea why he would kill my son in front of his two sisters and his cousin, no idea,’ Austin told WRAL.
‘There was never anything between me and him, no bad blood whatsoever for him to have a reason to do this.’
He added that he would regularly check in on Sessoms’ parents to see how they were doing and they had a good relationship.
Austin said that he had even invited Sessoms over to eat the previous evening, having noticed him sitting in his car alone and looking like he had a lot on his mind.
‘The Lord says to love our neighbor. I have plenty of food to go around. I just wanted to be nice,’ he said.
‘I noticed him sitting in his car, like he had a lot on his mind.’
He added to the Wilson Times that nothing about Sessoms had ever alerted him to the fact that he may be a danger to his family.
‘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.’
The day his son was killed, the family had carried out their normal Sunday routine, attending church and having something to eat before Cannon, his two sisters and their cousin took to the front yard to play.
‘They were just playing in the yard like any other day,’ Austin said.
His fiance had been keeping an eye on the children but stepped inside for a brief moment when they both heard the gunshot in the front yard at around 5.30pm.
‘The first thing that went through my mind was maybe he just fell off his bike,’ he said. ‘The closer I got to him, the more I realized it was something far more serious.’
Austin said that Sessoms was still standing in the yard in front of his parents’ house and pacing with the gun in his hand when he came to the front yard but that he couldn’t leave his son’s side.
‘I screamed, “Somebody, please help me save my son! Help me save my son, please”,’ he said.
‘[You] can’t imagine what it’s like to hold your son in your arms with a gunshot wound to the head, and his blood is running down your arms.
‘I was looking at him as I was picking up Cannon,’ Austin added. ‘I was so full of rage, but I couldn’t leave my son’s side. I wanted to be with my son.’
Sessoms fled shortly afterward, driving off as Austin’s fiance called the police.
A neighbor ran to help the family with an EMT bag but Cannon could not be saved.
‘Everybody just loved Cannon. He lit up the room,’ Austin said of his son, adding that it was heartbreaking that he died while riding his bike, one of his favorite things to do.
‘That is why this is so horrific to me,’ he said. ‘He was doing something he loved.’
However, the young father also hit out at social media posts claiming that race played a role in his son’s death.
‘This is no racial issue,’ he said, adding that he is praying for those who are making negative comments online.
‘It didn’t matter what color, male or female, he just had that love and joy in his heart,’ Hinnant said of his son. ‘He loved everyone.’
‘Me and his mother and all of Cannon’s family do not want Cannon’s name to be forgotten,’ Austin added.
‘We are not stopping until the world knows Cannon’s name. We want justice.’
A funeral for Cannon was held on Thursday evening with hundreds turning out to pay tribute to the young boy who is said to have loved riding his bike and nature.
‘We shouldn’t even be here,’ his grandfather Merrill Race told ABC News.
‘That’s evil. I never met this guy in my life, but that is one evil dude. He’s there where he should be,’ Race added of Sessoms.
A memorial service was initially set for Friday night but has since been postponed at the family’s request, as they feel it is too soon.
Wilson Mayor Carlton Stevens said he spoke to Cannon’s mother, Bonny Waddell, to offer support to the family and learned of their decision.
‘Today has been overwhelming to say the least. Tonight we are honoring Cannon and tomorrow he will be laid to rest,’ the family said in a statement Thursday afternoon.
‘The family feels that the Vigil at the courthouse for Friday night is a little too soon! We are going to honor Cannon in the next few weeks and we will announce it.’
Sessoms was taken into custody by Wilson police around 24 hours after he allegedly approached Cannon in front of the young boy’s father’s house at 5:30pm Sunday and shot him in the head.
He lived next door to the family, and the killing is not believed to be random, although no motive is known.
A GoFundMe established by a family member says that the young boy rode into Sessoms’ yard.
‘Sunday, August 9, 2020 a sweet soul named Cannon Hinnant was taken from this world over a senseless act,’ it reads.
‘A beautiful 5 year old baby boy riding his bicycle was shot by his neighbor point blank in Wilson NC. One minute he is enjoying his life, the next it all ends because he rode into his neighbor’s yard.’
The fundraiser has since raised more than $300,000.
The young boy was set to start Kindergarten on Monday and had just learned to write his name.
‘He was just a loving kid,’ his mother Bonny previously told the Wilson Times. ‘He had the biggest heart.’
‘It’s devastating. No one should ever have to bury their child. No mother should have to go through this.’
The family previously said they have known the suspect for years and did not believe he could be capable of murder.
‘We used to play together and I never thought he’d kill someone. A mother now has to lay her son to rest at 5 years old which she should never have to do. He’ll never be forgotten,’ Rachel Pipkin, a cousin of Cannon’s mother told CBS.
Police were called to the scene on Archers Road at around 5.30pm Sunday where Hinnant was found with a gunshot wound.
The young boy’s grandmother Lori Hinnant posted to Facebook straight after the shooting spreading the word and sharing an image from the scene.
‘Ok y’all I am distraught…I took my daughter to my son’s to play with her nieces and nephew and my grandson Cannon was shot by his neighbor in the head….the boy was about to shoot all the kids…All I am asking for right now is prayers y’all!!’ she wrote.
Emergency responders tried to save Hinnant and he was taken to the Wilson Medical Center but later died.
Sessoms was immediately identified as the suspect.
He fled the scene in a black 2019 Toyota Corolla and was later located by authorities in a residence in Goldsboro.
Police charged him with first-degree murder on Monday, and he is being held with no bond.
He made his first ten-minute court appearance virtually from Wilson County Jail on Tuesday morning.
Wilson County District Court Judge John Britt read Sessoms his rights and the charge he is facing. The suspect said he would be seeking his own attorney to represent him.
His probable cause hearing was set for August 25.
According to the Wilson Times, Sessoms was previously convicted of felony larceny of firearms in Wilson County in March 2016, misdemeanor maintaining a place for a controlled substance in Wake County in April 2016 and felony marijuana possession in Nash County in November 2016.
Court records also show that Sessoms has two pending counts of felony maintaining a vehicle, dwelling or place for a controlled substance in Wilson County.
Goldsboro Police Department, Wayne County Sheriff’s Office and the U.S. Marshals Service task force assisted in his arrest.
‘The Wilson Police Department sends its sincerest condolences and prayers to the family of Cannon during this tragic time,’ a police spokesperson said Monday.
Neighbor Doris Labrant witnessed the shooting through her window from across the street.
She told WRAL she saw Sessoms run up to the young boy, put the gun to his head and fire before running back to his own house.
‘My first reaction was he’s playing with the kids,’ Labrant said. ‘For a second, I thought, ‘That couldn’t happen’. People don’t run across the street and kill kids.’
On seeing Hinnant’s father’s reaction, however, she realized that the shooting was real and ran to lock herself inside and call 911.
‘Austin ran out of that house screaming and picked him up. They’ll never get over it,’ she said.
‘You don’t expect to see somebody shoot someone.
‘It’s almost like seeing a movie and then all of a sudden it dawns on you it’s not a movie.’
She added that Sessoms’ parent lived on the street for about 28 years and that she had not previously heard any altercations between the families.
‘There was no yelling, screaming,’ she claimed.
If anyone has any information that could help, they are urged to contact Wilson Police at (252) 399-2323 or Crime Stoppers at (252) 243-2255.