North Carolina police have charged a neighbor with the murder of a five-year-old boy who was riding a bike in his own yard when he was shot at point blank range on Sunday evening.
Darius Sessoms, 25, was taken into custody by Wilson police around 24 hours after he allegedly approached Cannon Hinnant in front of the young boy’s father’s house at 5:30pm and shot him in the head.
Hinnant’s seven-year-old and eight-year-old sisters witnessed the killing, their mother told WRAL.
Sessoms lived next door to the family, and the killing is not believed to be random. Neighbors claim he had dinner with Hinnant’s father Austin on Friday and had been over at the house earlier on Sunday.
The motive for the killing is still under investigation, but 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 neighbors yard.’
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 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.’
Hinnant’s family 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.
Emergency responders tried to save him 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.
He 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.
Neighbors gathered around the scene on Sunday night, shocked that the killing happened in their quiet neighborhood.
‘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. It’s sad, it hurts and justice needs to be served,’ said neighbor Frank Harvey told CBS.
Speaking the WRAL, the boy’s grandmother said that the family is happy to see Sessoms in custody but are devastated by the death.
They held a tribute Monday afternoon at his grandparents’ house in Black Creek in which they called for an end to violence against children.
‘Really everybody just wants answers as to why this was done. There will be justice,’ said Allan Wooten, the boy’s uncle.
His family described Hinnant as a nature lover who would look after injured insects.
‘He loved being outside,’ his mother said. ‘He always tried to save some creature. He loved any animal, any insect.’
She added that he loved his bikes and his two sisters and two brothers and that she had now nominated him for organ donation with the hope that he can live on through other children.
‘He can live on through other kids,’ she said. ‘It was what he would have done if he was older. He would have saved anybody. He was the sweetest child.’
‘He was one of a kind,’ grandfather Greg Waddell told The Wilson Times. ‘He loved to talk to everybody. He wasn’t shy.’
‘He always had a smile on his face,’ grandmother Wendy added. ‘I can see him right now. Beautiful soul. He wasn’t scared of anything. He was very courageous.’
Monday’s event was attended by the town’s Mayor who also paid tribute to the young boy.
‘I have a child that’s five years old. My heart broke right then. I went home right then and I took my baby and just hugged her,’ said Mayor Carlton Stevens.