Police never did say who was responsible for the homicide of Kyron Hinton in 2019.

Now we know.

“It was a young man, a juvenile who admitted to trying to restrain him,” Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman told the INDY last week. 

Before Hinton’s death, the juvenile had been charged during the same timeframe with an unrelated misdemeanor and “was found incompetent due to developmental disabilities,” she said. 

“Both the [police] chief and I understood he was unfit to stand trial. Unfortunately, people left with the perception that the case was not thoroughly investigated because someone should have been charged, and that’s not true. It was a really tragic situation.”

Freeman’s disclosure was news to Hinton’s family.

“She never told my aunt that,” says Dominique Sanders, Hinton’s cousin. Her aunt is the slain man’s mother, Vicki Hinton. “So, he’s getting off instead of being committed to an asylum? She told you this?”

Vicki Hinton answered with two words when asked if Freeman had told her a child in the home had admitted to being involved in her son’s death.

“No. Never,” Hinton said. 

Shannon Utley, the mother of Kyron’s daughter, Kyra, described the news as “strange.”.

According to his autopsy report, Hinton died from an irregular heartbeat caused by cocaine poisoning and a fractured larynx due to strangulation. Hinton was found unconscious by paramedics on the floor of a Southeast Raleigh home.

One day before, he had received $83,000 from Wake County as part of a settlement for being beaten by law enforcement officers in 2018, which led to criminal charges filed against a sheriff’s deputy and two state troopers. 

A day later, after receiving $3,000 of the settlement money, Hinton, a 30-year-old Black man with a history of severe mental illness and drug abuse, was found mortally injured.

Two months after Hinton’s autopsy was made public, Freeman announced no charges would be filed in the case due to insufficient evidence of foul play.

Before Freeman’s disclosure on Friday, the circumstances surrounding Hinton’s death were unknown and troubling for his family, especially for his mother. 

“I’m not myself anymore,” Vicki Hinton says. “I just can’t seem to get it together. Kyron being taken away from me like that took me for a loop. I’m just not the same.”

Kyron’s death

It was a Saturday night in Raleigh when someone living in the 700 block of Cooper Road called 911 to report that Hinton, a family friend, was unconscious on the floor. 

“He had been drinking, and he passed out on my floor,” the female caller said, according to a copy of the 911 recording obtained by the INDY from the Hinton family. “I guess he [was] drunk. They said he was drunk when he got here.”

The woman told the emergency dispatcher that Hinton was breathing, “but he ain’t awake.”

“Kyron? Kyron! Ky-Ron!” the woman repeated throughout the six-minute, 26-second call. 

“Oh, my God. Kyron? Oh, my God. Oh my God,” she said toward the end of the call while directing someone else in the home to follow the dispatcher’s instructions to determine if he’s breathing.

“My daughter is here and my…” she said with her voice trailing off before identifying other people in the home.

The woman was breathing heavily when she told the dispatcher, with growing alarm, that Hinton had a heartbeat, but she wasn’t sure if he was breathing.

Paramedics who arrived at the home rushed him to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.

The 911 caller said people at the home told her Hinton was drunk before he arrived. But a toxicology report by the state medical examiner indicates the presence of cocaine, but ethanol, the intoxicating ingredient in alcoholic beverages, was not detected in his blood.

According to a summary of events leading to Kyron’s death from the state medical examiner, “he was reportedly let into a friend’s home after asking to use the bathroom.”

When the police arrived, the residents inside the home on Cooper Road told the police that while Kyron was outside the home he was “observed talking nonsense, yelling, and acting strange.”

“Once inside the residence, he began damaging items with continued yelling and was restrained by another individual,” according to the medical examiner’s report. “At some point, he was observed to be unresponsive on the floor.”

Freeman said last week the juvenile responsible for Hinton’s death either acted in self-defense or attempted to restrain him, with devastating results.

In addition to neck fractures, Hinton also had blunt force injuries to his head, chest, and extremities, according to the autopsy, which classified his death as a homicide.

Hinton says Freeman previously told her the juvenile restrained her son but “did not intend to kill him”—or that there was any evidence he had. 

“But the autopsy says ‘homicide,’” Hinton told the INDY.

Public beating

Before hearing news about the child’s involvement in Kyron’s death, Hinton’s family members thought the police were responsible.

Their belief held some credence. Court records show that one of the state troopers involved in assaulting Hinton, Michael G. Blake, had a history of beating the hell out of Black motorists. In 2016, Blake was involved in the vicious beating of a motorist that left the man with head injuries, broken ribs, and a collapsed lung.

Blake was not criminally charged or disciplined for the 2016 incident near Cary.

Moreover, days before Blake was charged with felony assault against Kyron Hinton, a disabled Navy veteran filed a complaint with the N.C. Industrial Commission, accusing the former state trooper of assaulting her during a traffic stop in Brier Creek.

The motorist accused Blake of pulling her out of her car, throwing her on the ground face-first, and jumping on her back.

“I don’t know,” Hinton told the INDY last week. “I just think the police did it.”

Dominique Sanders, Hinton’s niece, said she thought “someone gave him a ‘hot shot’ of bad drugs.” The toxicology report shows that the cocaine found in Hinton’s body had been contaminated with levamisole which is used by veterinarians to treat animals with parasitic worms.

“I’m not myself anymore. I just can’t seem to get it together. Kyron being taken away from me like that took me for a loop.”

Utley, the mother of Hinton’s child, told the INDY that months before his death, Hinton was worried and that he felt threatened by police.

The beating Kyron Hinton endured by law enforcement first came to the public’s attention in April 2018, when this writer reported that he was brutally assaulted by officers while he was unarmed and standing in a busy street in East Raleigh.

The State Bureau of Investigation launched a probe of the beating after Hinton suffered a fractured eye socket and was bitten repeatedly by a K9 animal after being confronted by Raleigh police officers, Wake County sheriff’s deputies, and state troopers. 

The release of video and audio footage showed Hinton unarmed, yelling out, and standing in the middle of the busy road.

The situation, according to the video, remained calm until former Wake County Deputy Cameron Broadwell arrived on the scene with his police dog, Loki. The former deputy yelled, “Get on the ground now or you’re gonna get bit!” and sicced the animal on Hinton.

Broadwell was charged with three felonies—assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury, assault inflicting serious bodily injury, and willfully failing to discharge duties. 

In 2019, Broadwell pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor and received a 45-day suspended sentence and unsupervised probation. Blake and fellow former state trooper Tabithia Davis were both charged with assault inflicting bodily injury and willfully failing to discharge duties. Blake last year pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of failure to discharge the duties of his office and was sentenced to unsupervised probation. The charges against Davis are still pending today.

“We don’t intend to dismiss them, but the ultimate outcome is shaped by the fact that we don’t have our victim living,” Freeman said.

Troubled Life 

In a 2018 interview with this writer, Vicki Hinton said her son’s life was one of poverty, drugs, mental illness, and incarceration.

He and his two brothers were raised by their mother in a mobile home park in southern Wake County, about eight miles from downtown Raleigh. He stopped going to school in the sixth grade then started dealing drugs, his mother said.

In May 2003, four months after his 14th birthday, Kyron Hinton was tried as an adult and convicted on four counts of armed robbery. He was released from prison four years later and continued to struggle with alcohol, drugs, and untreated mental health issues.

“For most of his life, Kyron had been disrespectful,” Vicki Hinton said. “It started when he was nine, running around with his older cousins. He began to rob places with no bullets in the gun.”

Vicki Hinton has had her own violent encounter with law enforcement. Not long before Kyron Hinton’s death, she said she was assaulted by police during a confrontation with an employee at a Family Dollar Store in Garner.  

Hinton was living in Cary on the day her son was killed. She was sick and still recovering from her encounter with the Garner police. 

It was dark outside. Hinton did not have a bed and was sleeping on the floor.

“I was laying there thinking God’s gonna put me and Kyron back together to go to work in the church,” she said. “I happened to look down at my phone at 8:30 [p.m.] and it was my son Kendal. He told me Kyron was dead and came to pick me up. By the time we got to the hospital, they said ‘don’t touch him because he’s dead.’”

Kyron Hinton’s attorney, James Hairston of Raleigh, said that the day before he was killed, Kyron requested $3,000 of his settlement money, but family members said Kyron didn’t have a dime or any identification on him when he died.

The remainder of the settlement money he received went to an estranged wife—not a dime went to 10-year-old Kyra, whom he had with Utley before Hinton married, the family said. 

“Not one black penny,” Utley says.

For Kyra, the pain of her father’s death still lingers.

“[She] still has her moments of working through the grief of losing her father,” Utley says. “It was traumatic for her and it changed her.” 

Update: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that charges against former state trooper Michael G. Blake are pending.

Follow Durham Staff Writer Thomasi McDonald on Twitter or send an email to tmcdonald@indyweek.com.

Support independent local journalism. Join the INDY Press Club to help us keep fearless watchdog reporting and essential arts and culture coverage viable in the Triangle.