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New Jersey Juvenile Detention Officer Suspended After Allegedly Saying Slain Child 'Should've Ducked'

A New Jersey man is facing professional repercussions over his alleged statements about the fatal shooting of Cannon Hinnant, a North Carolina 5-year-old who was gunned down earlier this month.

By Sharon Lynn Pruitt
Man Accused Of Killing Cannon Hinnant Had Dinner With His Family

A New Jersey officer at a juvenile detention center has been suspended after allegedly making an insensitive Facebook remark regarding the shooting death of North Carolina 5-year-old Cannon Hinnant.

Hinnant was killed on August 9 when a neighbor, 25-year-old Darrius Sessoms, allegedly walked up to Hinnant while he was playing outside, placed a gun to his head, and fatally shot him before fleeing the scene, local outlets previously reported. Sessoms has since been arrested and charged with murder.

As the community continues to mourn, a man identified by NBC News as Rome Smith has been suspended from his job at the Juvenile Detention Center in Cumberland County, New Jersey for his comments regarding the violent act. In screenshots of the Facebook remark, which have been shared on various forms of social media, Smith reportedly wrote that Hinnant "should've ducked," a sentiment he punctuated with a shrugging emoji.

"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," the post continued.

Jody Hirata, a Cumberland County spokesperson, confirmed to NBC News that Smith has been suspended over the post, which has since been deleted. Officials also issued a statement to the outlet which did not name Smith as the post's author but called the post "shockingly insensitive and racist in tone."

"We will not tolerate county employees using social media to broadcast hateful messages," Cumberland County Freeholder Director Joseph Derella told NBC News. "This is not who we are and we intend to pursue the strongest action available to us."

Smith has worked for the state for 26 years, NJ.com reports. He has not commented publicly on the controversy; his social media accounts have been deactivated and multiple outlets, including NJ.com and NBC News, have been unsuccessful in their attempts to reach him.

Hinnant was killed while playing outside with his two sisters, who are 7 and 8 years old, WRAL reports. Police and first-responders rushed to the scene, but were unable to save Hinnant, who died after being taken to Wilson Medical Center.

Following her son's death, Hinnant's mother, Bonny Waddell, called for justice and spoke out against her son's killer, writing in a Facebook post, “This man will answer to me, that man will see me and my son through my face!! This sorry excuse as a human being will rot in hell.”

Police have yet to release a motive in the case. However, Waddell reiterated this week that the shooting was not related to race. Waddell, who is white, said that Sessoms, who is Black, was her neighbor for years and that they never even argued.

“This is not a race issue. This was a — I don’t even know what it was,” she said.

Cannon Hinnant's father Austin Hinnant told WRAL last week that Sessoms had dinner at his house the day before Cannon's murder.

"The Lord says to love our neighbor,” Austin Hinnant said. “I have plenty of food to go around. I just wanted to be nice.”

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