Joel Shannon, USA TODAY
Published 9:46 p.m. ET Aug. 14, 2020 | Updated 12:00 a.m. ET Aug. 15, 2020
The world now knows Cannon Hinnant as the North Carolina 5-year-old who was fatally shot while riding his bike less than a week ago. But to family, he was so much more: A child who will be remembered for his humor, energy and love.
“He was very full of life,” Gwen Hinnant told USA TODAY on Friday. A grandmother like her needed to be prepared for one of his regular visits — and be ready to play.
It wasn’t just bikes that he loved riding: Lawn mowers, 4-wheelers . . . Anything with wheels.
But his humor is what she remembers most. She laughed, retelling her favorite story.
Cannon, age 4 at the time, was visiting with his two older sisters when she knelt down on the floor to ask the boy a question: Will you take care of me when I’m old?
“You’re already old, grandma,” he replied.
It wasn’t said in a mean spirit. “Cannon loved everybody,” Hinnant said.
He also loved water gun battles — and money, she said with a chuckle. He was often asking his dad, Austin Hinnant, for $2.
Most of the time Cannon lived with mother, Bonny Waddell, and step-father, Lee Parker. But last weekend, he was visiting his dad, who is Gwen Hinnant’s step son.
Police haven’t said much about the details of Cannon’s death, other than a man has been charged with his murder.
But a grieving Austin Hinnant gave his account to local media.
Cannon was riding his bike when the shooting happened Sunday, hours after going to church with the family, WRAL-TV reported.
Austin Hinnant was inside when he heard the gunshot. He went outside and ran to his dying son. There, he also saw a neighbor, Darius Sessoms, pacing with a gun.
“I have no idea why he would kill my son in front of his two sisters,” Hinnant told the station.
Hinnant said he was filled with rage but couldn’t leave his son’s side.
“I just scooped him up in my arms and held him — and held him, and I screamed: ‘Somebody help me. Please help me save my son. God, save my son, please.’ “
Sessoms, 25, faces a first-degree murder charge.
Cannon’s story has now touched a nation, with thousands of people donating to a GoFundMe set up by Gwen Hinnant. It’s raised nearly half-a-million dollars as of Friday night.
That money will help expenses following his death — things like therapy for his sisters. And she hopes there will be enough money to fund a project to help memorialize Cannon’s story.
Maybe a bike park for kids, Hinnant said. That’s something “Cannon would have loved and other children will enjoy.”
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