Last week, an officer named Rome Smith is alleged to have written that Cannon Hinnant, “should’ve ducked,” about the boy who on August 9 was riding his bike in the front yard with his sisters when he was shot to death, according to screenshots of the Facebook post shared on Twitter.
“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,” Smith wrote allegedly.
Rome Smith, who is Black, works as an officer for the Juvenile Detention Center in Cumberland County. Jody Hirata, a county spokeswoman, has confirmed to NBC News that Smith is employed by the county and that he’s been suspended because of the post.
NBC News tried to contact Smith on Tuesday but they were unsuccessful. Smith’s Facebook account is currently disabled.
Cumberland County officials gave a statement but did not address Smith by name condemning the post as “shockingly insensitive and racist in tone” and said it has since been removed.
“We will not tolerate county employees using social media to broadcast hateful messages. This is not who we are and we intend to pursue the strongest action available to us,” Joseph Derella said, a Cumberland County Freeholder Director.
Cannon was riding his bicycle in the Wilson family home driveway when a neighbor walked towards him and fired a fatal gunshot to his head, witnesses told police, according to local Raleigh, North Carolina media WRAL.
25-year-old neighbor Darius Nathaniel Sessoms was identified by police as the shooter, he has been arrested and is facing a first-degree murder charge for Cannon’s death. Sessoms is Black and Cannon was white.
Sessoms’ parents said they believe he was under the influence of drugs and had hallucinations when the shooting took place, according to The Associated Press.
The night before the shooting, Hinnant said him and Sessoms sat on the front porch and shared a beer together.
“I have no idea why he would kill my son in front of his two sisters and his cousin. There was never anything between me and him, any bad blood whatsoever for him to have a reason to do this,” Austin said to WRAL.
Police haven’t released any information about what prompted the fatal gunshot. Some users on social media have suggested that the boy’s shooting death was a racially motivated crime. Austin said it disturbs him that posts on social media are falsely suggesting race played a role in Cannon’s death.
Sessoms made his first physical court appearance on Monday. He didn’t speak during the short proceeding, The Wilson Times wrote. Sessoms doesn’t have an attorney, and he is currently jailed at the Wilson County Detention Center without bond.
“This is no racial issue,” Austin mentioned to The Wilson Times.
Austin says he prays for those who make negative comments online and that Cannon loved everyone he met.
“It didn’t matter what color, male or female, he just had that love and joy in his heart,” Austin said. “He loved everyone.”
Bonny Waddell who is Cannon’s mother wrote a Facebook post, urging people to please not compare her son’s death to that of George Floyd, a Black man who a white Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck until he died.
“THIS HAS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH RACE AND DO NOT COMPARE THIS TO FLOYD!” Bonny 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.”
Kyle James Lee – The AEGIS Alliance – This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.