Local News

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

Posted December 26, 2008 6:26 a.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2009 5:11 p.m. EDT

— 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.)



"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?"