Local News

Emotional 911 call released in 3-year-old's shooting death

Posted December 26, 2008
Updated March 9, 2009

— Raleigh police on Friday released the 911 call made late Christmas Eve in the death of a young boy, whom police believe was playing with his father's 9 millimeter handgun when he shot himself.

Three-year-old Pharell Hinton's brother made the call shortly after 11 p.m.. Wednesday, pleading with the 911 operator to send help. (Listen to the call. Note: Some may find the call disturbing.)

Great-grandmother of child killed prays for son Great-grandmother of child killed prays for son

"My brother – he was playing, like, with this gun … and he was pointing it at himself, and he shot himself. He's dead," the caller said. "And I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry."

Meanwhile Friday, the boy's father, Eric Eugene Hinton, made his first appearance in Wake County District Court on charges of involuntary manslaughter.

Hinton, 26, has been on suicide watch at the Wake County Jail since his arrest Thursday after police found evidence that indicated the weapon belonged to him.

Concerned for his safety and wellbeing, his uncle, Brian Hinton, asked District Judge Shelley Desvousges to allow Eric Hinton to undergo psychological counseling.

"I just need him to hold on, because this is not the end; it's not over," Brian Hinton said. "We believe in God, and his child was not taken by his hand. His son's death was an accident."

Hinton said nothing during the brief proceeding, in which Desvousges appointed him a public defender, kept his bond at $100,000 and set a probable cause hearing for Jan. 14.

She said Hinton's attorney would handle the family's request for counseling.

In the nearly 10-minute emotional 911 call, Hinton tells the operator he was in the back yard with two of his other sons playing hide-and-seek when he heard a "pow."

"It looks like he got shot in his face, man," Hinton tells the operator, who tries several times to walk a hysterical Hinton through first-aid procedures.

"I don't know what to do," he continues. "Tell me what to do."

The background is noisy with crying and screaming, and at one point, Pharell's brother cries out: "I don't want my brother to be dead."

Emergency workers and police appear to arrive and the call abruptly ends.

Hinton, who was convicted last year of felony convictions for selling cocaine and marijuana, is also charged with possession of a firearm by a felon.

The charge of involuntary manslaughter carries up to 59 months in jail, and the charge of possession of a firearm by a felon, 44 months.

Brian Hinton said his nephew loved his five children, all under age 10, and had shared custody with their mother after recently separating. Eric Hinton had talked to his uncle about 20 minutes before the shooting.

"He has a hard time getting the kids to go to sleep," he said. "He was trying to let them run themselves out of energy, and he was tired."

"If he had that gun, he definitely didn't purposefully leave it there," he added.

Although he was the youngest of five children, Pharell was a hyper child who "ruled the roost," family members said.

"He was the boss," Brian Hinton said. "You couldn't have French fries around him – he would snatch them up."

The family was still making funeral arrangements Friday.

Hinton had been on probation since last December for the drug convictions. His family said he was trying change his life.

If he had a gun, they said, it was because his life had been threatened several times, and neighbors have said that someone shot at his mother's home – where the Christmas Eve shooting occurred – on Halloween.

"We have to understand (that) getting out of certain lifestyles, you don't have a police (tactical) team to help," Brian Hinton said. "A lot of people will want to hurt you for just saying you don't want to be part of that group anymore."

"And I know Eric was going through that," he added. "Instead of retaliating, he moved."

Relatives said that Eric Hinton was suffering through the consequences of some poor choices and actions and that they hoped his legal punishment for Pharell's death would not be too harsh.

"Those things we're taught when we're young are true, and he found out the hard way. But I do know that my nephew loved his children constantly," Brian Hinton said. "It was an accident."

"Whatever else they need to do with him with other things he's doing wrong – do that," he continued. "His child, I mean – what else punishment can you get?"


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  • esprg Dec 29, 2008

    woodrowboyd2; I wondered the same thing with the weight of the gun and the description of the shooting how could the 3yr old shoot himself in the face. Unless he was holding it with both hands barrel turned toward his face waist high to shoot himself in the face if so I would think the close range would have probably *Alert... Descriptive...* blown his face open and/or off. Then I noticed in the 911 call that the brother kept saying I'm Sorry, what would he be sorry for?

  • Alexia.1 Dec 29, 2008

    I listened to the 911 call. The operator did seem a bit rude, but to his credit, he tried very hard to help is frantic father administer CPR. At 6:20 into the call, there was still some hope that the boy could have been revived. But, from 6:20 until the recording topped around 9:05 (just under 3 minutes), the boy just layed there as the father explained to the police what happened. Why didn't somebody immediately try to help this boy?

  • carij Dec 29, 2008

    I am so sick of this, it should never happen! If a child accidentally shoots himself there is someone to blame, his parents. A gun should have never been around this child his dad is a felon, he's not supposed to have guns. If this FELON would have complied with his previous orders his son would still be here to open Christmas gifts with his siblings. I don't care what happens to this so called father. I do care about the boys siblings, I'm sure they're tramatized I hope the family will get them all the help they need to recover from this. Bless you pharell Jesus loves you baby boy

  • bnice1984 Dec 29, 2008

    colliedave: can't you read or do you just like making up your own story? this man was not a "thug", (a word i hate as it is now just a modern replacement for the N word). he got involved with certain activities at a young age and after being convicted attempted to remove himself from such situations. eric's home was shot up in Halloween in connection with him separating himself from low-lives and "thugs" to be a better father for his children. he made a mistake once and distanced himself from those people. this is just a tragic case for a young man who was trying to get his house in order. unless you knew this man you have no right or reason to speculate on his character. good luck eric.

  • woodrowboyd2 Dec 26, 2008

    just a thought
    could a 3 year old hold this gun and aim at himself and pull the trigger

    was the gun knocked from a table sticking the floor and dischargeing into his face
    or was his brother and he both playing with the gun when he was shot
    kinda hard to belive a 3 year old could do this to himself

  • acarosella79 Dec 26, 2008

    I sympathize with the Father only because he lost a son not because of the way he lost him. That was definately a death that HE could have prevented. I agree though about the 911 operator, the child may not have been able to be saved but had the operator been a little less rude and responded in a more patient and calmer voice like 911 operators are taught in our training courses he may have ben able to obtain the fathers attention better to assist him in helping the child. With an attitude like that, the last thing the caller wants to do is talk to you.

  • colliedave Dec 26, 2008

    Perhaps it is a male/female thing, but I fail to see why there is an ounce a sympathy for the guy. It is chosen lifestyle to have such a weapon that is easily accessible by his children. It is his chosen lifestyle to have someone shoot at his mother's home. It is his decions that have led to the criminal backround that he has accumulated. Actions have consequences, and his poor choices have resulted in the death of his child. Perhaps his "chickens have come home to roost" and some serious jail time will force him to make the best of his life after prison.

  • chey1974 Dec 26, 2008

    uggg good thing they didn't lock me away & throw away the key. So I guess I'm expendable now?? Not a valued member of society? I turned myself around....why does so many people think this is impossible? JUDGE NOT LESS YEE BE JUDGED....isn't that what everyone always says. & just for the record....if me & my family were being threatened or harassed...probation or not, I would have some kinda protection for my family.....wouldn't you??

  • gotitmadecij Dec 26, 2008

    I NEVER ceased to be amazed.... worried about being rude!!!

    "This must be the rudest 911 operator on the planet. It was obvious that the caller was a child and he could not suspend his script to elicit what was needed. I hope never to have to deal with someone like him in an emergency.

    MBS, I sincerely hope that you never need 911 ever, but if I do I hope they are there for me like this one was...

  • TexasKate Dec 26, 2008

    The story is convoluted. 911 operators, God bless them.