‘I screamed’: Father of slain 5-year-old can’t fathom why son was killed

Community comes together to honor 5-year-old NC boy shot by neighbor while riding bike

WILSON, N.C. — Cannon Hinnant, the 5-year-old boy who was shot to death outside his father’s home in Wilson, North Carolina last weekend has been laid to rest.

Witnesses told police that Cannon Hinnant was riding a bike when his father’s neighbor walked up to him and shot him in the head in front of his two sisters, ages 8 and 7.

“They were just playing in the yard like any other day,” Austin Hinnant, Cannon’s father, told WRAL.

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Cannon Hinnant
Cannon Hinnant (GoFundMe)

A neighbor, who told WRAL she witnessed the shooting from her window, said Sessoms ran up to Cannon and put the gun to his head before running back into his own home. She called 911 after seeing Austin’s reaction.

“The first thing that went through my mind was maybe he just fell off his bike,” Austin said after he heard gunshots. “The closer I got to him, the more I realized it was something far more serious.”

Police said 25-year-old Darius Nathaniel Sessoms was arrested Monday. He’s charged with first-degree murder and is being held without bond.

Austin told the news station that Sessoms had been over to his home the day before, sat on his porch and drank beer, and they have lived next to each other for eight years.

"The Lord says to love our neighbor. I have plenty of food to go around. I just wanted to be nice," Hinnant said. "There wasn't anything between me and him, any bad blood whatsoever, for him to have a reason to do this."

After Cannon was shot, Austin said he scooped him up into his arms and screamed.

"I screamed, 'Somebody, please help me save my son! Help me save my son, please,'" he told WRAL. "[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."

Austin said he doesn’t know why Sessoms killed Cannon and police have not released any details as to a possible motive.

Family, friends, and pastors said they are trying to help lift up Cannon's family as they wait for answers in Cannon's death.

“The only thing I keep thinking of is a scripture that comes to my heart Psalm 34:18 that says God is close to the brokenhearted,” said Bobby Harrell, the campus pastor of Wave Church in Wilson. “That’s what I want people to know when we are hurting God longs to be close to us.”

More than $729,000 in donations pour in for family of NC boy killed by neighbor

An online fundraising effort in the memory of a 5-year-old North Carolina boy who was shot to death at point blank range has raised more nearly $729,000 in less than a week.

Police said 25-year-old Darrius Sessoms shot Cannon Hinnant in the head while the boy was riding his bike late Sunday afternoon. Sessoms, who is the Hinnants’ neighbor, is charged with murder.

A GoFundMe page was created Wednesday by Cannon’s grandmother, Gwen Hinnant.

“This family has faced unimaginable pain because of this senseless act of violence,” Gwen Hinnant wrote on the fundraising page.

The fundraiser had a goal of $5,000 to pay for funeral services but had raised more than $729,000 by Sunday morning.

Gwen Hinnant said Cannon was just “doing what he would do any other day” when the shooting happened. Family members said the little boy loved his bike and his two sisters.

“Just a kid trying to have fun in his own yard and something like this happens. It’s despicable,” Merrill Race, Cannon’s great grandfather said.

“He just loved everything. Everybody,” Lee Parker, Cannon’s stepfather said. “I could sit here for days, I just … there are no words or no amount of money that’s going to bring him back.”

Hundreds showed up at Shingleton Funeral Home in Wilson Thursday to pay their respects to Cannon. A community vigil that was planned for Friday evening has been postponed at the family’s request. They said they hope to hold some kind of gathering in about two weeks.

Family, friends say goodbye to slain 5-year-old boy; prayer vigil postponed

Family members and friends gathered Thursday night to honor the life of Cannon Hinnant, a 5-year-old boy who police said was shot and killed by a neighbor in Wilson, North Carolina last weekend.

Cannon was riding his bike at the time of the deadly shooting, police said.

More than 100 cars filled the funeral home parking lot. Friends, loved ones and strangers all showed up to lift the boy’s family during an unthinkable time.

Merrill Race, Cannon’s grandfather, spoke to our partners at WTVD, expressing his pain and disbelief.

“We shouldn’t even be here,” he said.

Race, a member of the local Guardians of the Children, described his grandson as a “beautiful kid” who loved playing outside.

“Cannon was the type of kid that was always polite, kind of laid back, but he was a beautiful little kid,” he said.

Cannon Hinnant
Cannon Hinnant (WTVD)

Lee Parker, Cannon’s stepfather, told WTVD he helped raise the boy with his wife, Donna Waddell.

”He meant the world to me, just like all the other kids that are mine I helped raise,” Parker said.

Cannon’s death has garnered national attention. People from around the world have been using several hashtags with Cannon’s name on social media, sending prayers, words of encouragement and even monetary donations.

”From Australia, Ohio, Colorado, I mean, it don’t stop. It’s all around the world,” Parker said.

“His smile is huge,” Daryl High, who was Cannon’s youth pastor, told WRAL. “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.”

Darius Sessoms, 25, is in jail on no bond, facing a first-degree murder charge. Wilson Police have not released any information regarding a motive. According to WRAL, Sessoms’ parents said they are deeply saddened by what happened to Cannon. They said they believe their son was on drugs and having hallucinations at the time of the shooting.

The family said Cannon was set to start kindergarten this week. Race could not understand why anyone would hurt a child.

”That’s evil,” he said. “I never met this guy in my life, but that is one evil dude. He’s there where he should be.”

Neighbors, too, were distraught over the boy’s death.

Race and Parker said their family is missing a loving, free-spirited young boy who will be deeply missed and impossible to replace.

”It’ll never be behind us,” Parker said. “He’ll always be with us, but we’re gonna get through it.”

The family intends to hold a vigil in the near future, but no details or dates have been announced. They said Friday’s vigil was postponed because they need some time to mourn and heal.

‘How could anyone do that?‘: NC man accused of shooting 5-year-old neighbor in head at point blank range

A 25-year-old man accused of shooting his 5-year-old neighbor in the head at point blank range in Wilson, North Carolina on Sunday night has been charged with first-degree murder in the boy’s death.

Darius Nathaniel Sessoms, 25, was arrested Monday after fleeing the scene and is in the custody of Wilson Police and members of the U.S. Marshals Service Carolinas Regional Task Force, The Wilson Times reported. Sessoms was found in a home in Goldsboro.

Darius Nathaniel Sessoms
Darius Nathaniel Sessoms (Wilson PD)

No details about a possible motive for the shooting have been released, but police said it was not random.

Wilson County District Court Judge John Britt told Sessoms during a virtual hearing on Tuesday that he has a right to represent himself, hire a lawyer or he could ask for a court-appointed lawyer. Sessoms, who is being held without bond, said he wanted to try to hire a lawyer.

According to our partners at WTVD, the shooting happened around 5:30 p.m. on Archers Road.

The home of Cannon Hinnant
The home of Cannon Hinnant (WTVD)

Wilson police said officers responding Sunday evening to a report of a shooting at a mobile home park found Cannon Hinnant suffering from a gunshot wound to the head. Capt. Steve Stroud said officers and other first responders performed first aid before the boy was taken to Wilson Medical Center, where he died.

“The Wilson Police Department sends its sincerest condolences and prayers to the family of Cannon during this tragic time,” the department said in a release.

Family members told WRAL that Cannon Hinnant was on his bike playing outside his father’s house when he was shot in the head. The boy’s two sisters, ages 8 and 7, saw their brother get shot, according to Cannon’s mother.

Doris Lybrand, who witnessed the shooting, told WRAL that Sessoms ran up to the boy, put the gun near his head and fired before running back to his own house.

“My first reaction was he’s playing with the kids,” Lybrand said. “For a second, I thought, ‘That couldn’t happen.’ People don’t run across the street and kill kids.”

She said she realized the gun was real when she saw Cannon’s father’s reaction to the shooting, and she quickly went inside her home, locked the door and called 911.

“You don’t expect to see somebody shoot someone,” she said.

Charlene Walburn, a neighbor, described the little boy to WTVD.

”He would come over, him and my husband would always talk back and forth and he would ask my husband to put air in his tire,” she said. “If he saw me on the porch with a popsicle, he would always come over and ask me if he could have a popsicle.”

Walburn said though that what happened Sunday night shocked them so much that they can’t talk about it without choking up.

”We were eating our dinner and heard a bang,” she said. “We knew it was a gunshot. So I told him (her husband) to call 911, and I ran to the door.”

Walburn said they heard the cries of the boy’s father saying his son was shot.

”Our neighbor saw it. She said the young man just walked up to the little boy who was sitting on his bike, which he does every day,” Walburn explained. “I just don’t understand why he did it. How can you walk up to a little boy, point blank, and put a gun to his head and just shoot him? How could anyone do that?”

Frank Harvey, who has lived in the neighborhood for 15 years, told WAVY he’s never seen anything like the scene Sunday.

“It’s usually quiet here. You might hear cars kind of loud and stuff like that, but as far as this right here going on, no, you don’t see nothing like this,” Harvey said. “It’s sad. It hurts and justice needs to be served.”

A GoFundMe page has been set up for Cannon’s family. The page says, “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 boy was set to start kindergarten on Monday.

“He was just a loving kid,” his mother, Bonny Waddell, 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.”

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.

Police: North Carolina man arrested in shooting death of 5-year-old boy