Rome Smith is a corrections officer for the Juvenile Detention Center in Cumberland County. However, he has since been temporarily suspended following a Facebook post he made about Cannon Hinnant. As Forbes reported, a 5-year-old North Carolina boy was shot and killed earlier this month in a seemingly random and unprovoked murder as he played outside his family home. Hinnant was white, while his alleged murderer, Darius Sessoms, is Black.
Though the boy’s death has become something of a cause célèbre in certain circles because of the racial makeup of the victim and his alleged killer, both of his parents insist that they do not believe this crime was racially motivated.
In a Facebook post, Smith, who is Black, appeared to take a cavalier and flippant attitude toward the young lad’s death.
“He should’ve ducked FOH!! 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 purportedly wrote.
Jody Hirata, a spokeswoman for the county, confirmed that Smith is an employee of the county and has been suspended over the post.
Similarly, in a statement, Cumberland County Freeholder Director Joseph Derella condemned the “shockingly insensitive and racist in tone” post and said it has since been taken down.
“We will not tolerate county employees using social media to broadcast hateful messages. This is not who we are and we intend to pursue the strongest action available to us,” Derella said, without mentioning Smith by name.
Smith, for his part, has not returned calls for comment. According to NJ.com, his Facebook and other social media accounts have been deactivated.
Officials did not reveal how long Smith will be suspended.
Hinnant’s case has resonated with certain conservatives as an example of purportedly under-reported Black-on-white crime. Some commentators have compared his death — which some claim didn’t get sufficient coverage — with that of George Floyd, whose death sparked nationwide protests and even informed a cultural reckoning about race in this country.
“Reverse the races and this is the only thing anyone talks about for a month,” said conservative blogger Matt Walsh, for example.
Still, Hinnant’s parents do not believe there was a racial component to their son’s death. The boy’s father had invited his son’s alleged killer over to their home for a beer previously and claimed that there was no bad blood between the two men.