Kyron Hinton, whose beating in April led to criminal charges against three law enforcement officers, has lived a life marked by poverty, drugs, mental illness and incarceration.
He and his two brothers were raised by their mother, Vicki Hinton, in a mobile home park in southern Wake County, about 8 miles from downtown Raleigh. He stopped going to school in the sixth grade, his mother said, and started dealing drugs.
In May 2003, four months after his 14th birthday, he was tried as an adult and convicted on four counts of armed robbery. Since he was released from prison in 2007, Hinton, now 29, has struggled with alcohol, drugs and untreated mental health issues, according to his mother.
"All this drinking and drugs — come on now," Vicki Hinton said Friday during an interview at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Gardens in Raleigh. "I have been trying to get help for him since he was 9.”
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Law enforcement videos show an agitated Kyron Hinton on April 3, when he was standing in the middle of Raleigh Boulevard in East Raleigh, and also on June 3, when he called 911 near his mother’s home.
In the April incident, in which he was bitten by a Wake County sheriff's deputy’s dog and struck by officers, he appeared to be singing and yelling as cars passed by him. In the second incident, he repeatedly called for his mother and said he worried police were going to kill him.
Those images are a stark contrast to Hinton’s behavior during a news conference after three officers — sheriff’s Deputy Cameron Broadwell and Highway Patrol troopers Michael Blake and Tabithia Davis — were indicted by a grand jury on felony charges after the April incident. The three are scheduled to appear in court Monday.
Standing outside the Wake County courthouse with his attorney and advocate after the grand jury handed up indictments against the officers, Hinton calmly told reporters that he wanted to thank the district attorney, who asked the State Bureau of Investigation to look into the April beating.
“We’re going to keep pressing forward for absolute justice, which would be a conviction,” Hinton said, adding that he was having trouble with his memory since the April encounter. Hinton has also said he suffered a broken nose, a fractured eye socket and about 20 dog bites.
During the news conference, Hinton said he was “more than prepared” to testify against the officers.
Vicki Hinton, 61, said she doesn’t know where her son is living now.
She was with him on June 3, when Kyron Hinton called 911 to report a shooting. Wake County sheriff’s deputies who arrived did not find any evidence of a shooting, and some began filming with their cellphones when they realized who Hinton was.
Vicki Hinton also called 911 that day, asking for help for her son. Hinton was cited after the sheriff’s office said he kicked a deputy while officers and his mother were getting him into an ambulance.
Vicki Hinton said she thought her son had taken cocaine that night. The interaction with law enforcement, she said, scared Kyron because of the April incident.
"They were on the porch, shining lights in our faces and a bulldog was barking,” she said. “The next thing I know, they (were) getting EMS and Ky is talking in tongues. … There's a whole lot of white people with guns. I'm scared.
“When EMS got there, he kept hollering, 'Momma, Momma, don't let them kill me.' They gave him medication to calm him down. He was petrified, having PTSD flashbacks of a dog biting him, with that one barking in the other yard. He thought he was fighting for his life. He's been through hell."
Diana Powell, executive director of Justice Served NC and an advocate for Kyron Hinton, has also said he was exhibiting symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder on June 3 “in the aftermath of the disgusting use of force by police two months ago.”
“It is sickening," Powell said at a news conference hours after the June 3 incident, adding that Kyron Hinton has experienced paranoia and difficulty sleeping. Powell has called for an "open and thorough" investigation into the use of police "authority to intimidate black men."
Vicki Hinton is a devout woman who is seldom without her Bible. She wears a wooden cross around her neck, uses a hand-carved walking stick and carries a burlap bag with “Jesus” emblazoned on both sides.
She is passionate about racial justice. Inside her bag are the laminated images of Harriet Tubman and Abraham Lincoln.
"I freed a thousand slaves," reads the caption under Tubman’s photo. "I could have freed a thousand more if they knew they were slaves." Beside Lincoln's photo are the words, "Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally."
She often visits the MLK Gardens, where a statue of the civil rights leader stands at the corner of Martin Luther King Boulevard and Rock Quarry Road.
"It's like solitude for me," she said. “I go to his statue a lot."
Vicki Hinton said she has a history of mental health issues, and she did the best she could for her sons.
"I had problems with Ky because we were poor," she said. "Being in poverty, he was a hard child to raise. His friends had two-story houses; he wanted that, too. I understood because I wanted it as a child. He wanted what other kids had. And he was without a father."
A series of physical health issues she endured, including fibromyalgia and arthritis, made things even tougher, Vicki Hinton said.
"I'm a walking sick person," she said. "I was on 16 medications. Kyron used to bring them to me on a tray."
But there were happy times, too. "My boys played Pop Warner football," she said, smiling at the memory. "I still have the pictures of Ky in a little yellow suit. They were good boys."
The parents of her sons' teammates shared cleats and other football equipment she couldn’t afford. One parent, who knew the family was struggling, offered to take the boys into her home for a while.
"I had a choice to make," Vicki Hinton said. “They were a football family. But I made the decision to not let her take the boys. I thought, 'If you love them, the Lord will help you deal with this the best way you know how.' That's when things really hit the fan."
When Kyron stopped attending middle school, VIcki Hinton asked the court system to put him in “boot camp.”
"They said he would have to get in trouble first,” she recalled.
She said Kyron started staying at the home of an older man, and she suspects he was sexually abused there.
"He was a little boy who put grocery bags around him at night,” she said. “If anyone tried anything, they would rattle. ... There's no telling what that boy saw. Kyron was really raised by him at that point."
Then he spent his high school years in prison, where he earned a General Education Diploma, or GED.
Kyron Hinton was married “for a short time,” his mother said. The couple had a daughter who is now 7. Vicki Hinton said she and her son’s ex-wife have taken him to the hospital in recent years for mental health issues.
"They keep him for an hour and then they let him go. … Nobody thinks he needs an evaluation because they don't care,” Vicki Hinton said.
People told her not to watch the police videos from April 3. But she did watch.
"When I finally saw it, my heart just dropped,” she said. “The police were all over him."
She hopes her son will get help and lead a more stable life.
"I was a good mom," she said, "and I did the best I could."