A New Jersey county has suspended an officer at a juvenile detention center over what it described as a racist Facebook post about the fatal shooting of a 5-year-old in North Carolina.
The officer, Rome Smith, allegedly wrote last week that Cannon Hinnant, who was killed Aug. 9 while playing in his front yard with his sisters, “should’ve ducked,” according to screenshots of the post shared online.
“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 allegedly wrote.
Smith, who is Black, is an officer at the Juvenile Detention Center in Cumberland County. A spokeswoman for the county, Jody Hirata, confirmed that Smith is an employee of the county and has been suspended over the post.
Attempts to reach him Tuesday were unsuccessful. His Facebook account appears to have been disabled.
In a statement that did not identify Smith by name, Cumberland County officials condemned the post as “shockingly insensitive and racist in tone” and said it has since been taken down.
“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.”
Witnesses told police Cannon was riding his bike in the driveway of his family’s home in Wilson when a neighbor walked up to him and shot him in the head.
The neighbor, identified by police as Darius Nathaniel Sessoms, 25, was arrested and is charged with first-degree murder in Cannon’s death. Cannon was white and Sessoms is Black.
Cannon’s father, Austin Hinnant, told The Wilson Times that he and Sessoms were not friends, but that they were friendly and that he always checked in with Sessoms’ parents, who lived next door.
Sessoms’ parents said they believe their son was on drugs and having hallucinations at the time of the shooting, The Associated Press reported. His parents could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday.
The night prior to the killing, Hinnant said he and Sessoms shared a beer on the front porch.
“I have no idea why he would kill my son in front of his two sisters and his cousin,” Hinnant told WRAL. “There was never anything between me and him, any bad blood whatsoever for him to have a reason to do this.”
Sessoms made his first in-court appearance Monday. He did not speak during the brief proceeding, The Wilson Times reported. He is being held without bond at the Wilson County Detention Center and does not have an attorney.
Police have not said what prompted the brutal killing. Some social media users have seized on the boy’s shooting death to suggest that it is a racially motivated crime.
Hinnant said he has been disturbed by social media posts that falsely suggest race was a factor in Cannon’s death.
“This is no racial issue,” Hinnant told The Wilson Times.
He said he is praying for those who are making negative comments online and that his son loved everyone he met.
“It didn’t matter what color, male or female, he just had that love and joy in his heart,” Hinnant said. “He loved everyone.”
In a Facebook post, Cannon’s mother, Bonny Waddell, urged people not to compare her son’s slaying to the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck.