Last week, an officer by the name of Rome Smith, who works at the Juvenile Detention Center in Cumberland County, New Jersey, was suspended after allegedly making a racist post on Facebook about the tragic death of Cannon Hinnant, a 5-year-old boy from North Carolina. Cannon was fatally shot on August 9 while riding his bike in his front yard with his sisters.
Screenshots of the Facebook post were shared on Twitter, where Smith is said to have written, “Cannon Hinnant should’ve ducked.” Furthermore, Smith’s post went on to blame Cannon’s parents for not watching him and accused others of trying to undermine the seriousness of innocent Black people being killed by the police. Smith, who is Black himself, allegedly emphasized his frustration by exclaiming, “F Y’ALL.”
In response to this disturbing post, Cumberland County officials released a statement condemning the remarks as “shockingly insensitive and racist in tone.” The county officials confirmed that Smith worked for them and announced that he had been suspended pending further investigation. Smith’s Facebook account is currently disabled, and NBC News tried to contact him but was unsuccessful.
Joseph Derella, Cumberland County Freeholder Director, voiced their strong stance against such hate messages from county employees on social media, stating, “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.”
The tragic incident occurred when Cannon Hinnant was riding his bike in his driveway and a neighbor approached him, shooting him in the head, according to WRAL. The shooter, 25-year-old Darius Nathaniel Sessoms, who is Black, has been arrested and is facing a first-degree murder charge for Cannon’s death. Austin Hinnant, Cannon’s father, revealed that although they were not close friends, he and Sessoms got along, often checking in with each other’s parents next door. Sessoms’ parents claimed that he was under the influence of drugs and experiencing hallucinations during the shooting, the Wilson Times and the Associated Press reported.
Cannon’s father expressed his confusion and disbelief at the senseless act that took his son’s life, stating that there was no apparent reason for Sessoms to do such a thing, emphasizing that there was no animosity between them. The police have not disclosed any details regarding the motive behind the fatal shooting. Austin Hinnant also mentioned his discomfort with social media posts falsely suggesting that race played a role in his son’s death, asserting that it was not a racial issue.
Sessoms appeared in court on Monday, where he remained silent during the brief proceeding. He is currently being held without bond at the Wilson County Detention Center, without legal representation.
WRAL and the Wilson Times reported that Austin Hinnant dismissed any racial implications surrounding his son’s death and urged people not to compare it to the tragic killing of George Floyd, a Black man who died after a white police officer knelt on his neck in Minneapolis
Cannon’s mother, Bonny Waddell, took to Facebook to address the heart-wrenching loss, pleading with people not to associate her son’s death with the killing of George Floyd, reiterating that Cannon loved everyone and had no prejudice. She emphasized that Cannon was innocent and loving and that the cruel actions of the shooter had inexplicably taken him away from them.