Cannon Hinnant's father said he had dinner with his son's suspected killer the night before the killing

By Chris Harris
August 14, 2020 12:05 PM
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Cannon Hinnant
GoFundMe

Hours before attending his son's funeral Thursday, Cannon Hinnant's father sat down with a local news station to discuss the 5-year-old's killing — allegedly at the hands of a neighbor who was angry the boy wandered onto his lawn.

Austin Hinnant recalled for WRAL how Cannon and his sisters, ages 7 and 8, were playing outside their home in Wilson, North Carolina, on Sunday when the unimaginable happened.

"They were just playing in the yard like any other day," Hinnant explained, telling the station he was inside his house when he heard the fatal shot go off.

Hinnant ran outside, and saw Cannon on the ground.

Darius Sessoms
Wilson Police Department

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

Police say eyewitnesses to the mid-day killing told them Cannon was riding his bike when a neighbor, identified as 25-year-old Darrius Sessoms, allegedly walked up to the boy and shot him point-blank in the head.

The night before the killing, Sessoms, now charged with first-degree murder, and Cannon's father had dinner together, Austin Hinnant said.

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

Hinnant swept Cannon's up into his arms. "I screamed, 'Somebody, please help me save my son! Help me save my son, please,'" he says.

A neighbor carrying an EMT bag rushed to the boy's side, and Austin dropped to his knees to pray.

"[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," he said.

Austin told WRAL he could see Sessoms nearby, allegedly pacing back and forth with the murder weapon still in his hand.

"I was looking at him as I was picking up Cannon," he said. "I was so full of rage, but I couldn't leave my son's side. I wanted to be with my son."

Sessoms allegedly fled the area in a 2019 Toyota Corolla. Police found him Monday night, inside a home in Goldsboro. A motive for the shooting is still unknown.

Sessoms has yet to plead to the charges, and it was unclear if he had an attorney Friday.

"Everybody just loved Cannon," the father said. "He lit up the room."

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A GoFundMe campaign established to support Cannon's family through the grieving process describes the boy as a "precious angel" who was "merely doing what he would do any other day and that's playing with his sisters, riding his bike, doing what kids do and all of the innocence that comes with being a child."

The page says the family "has faced unimaginable pain because of this senseless act of violence."