WHITE PLAINS, Westchester County (WABC) -- A reputed gang member apologized to the family of 13-year-old Shamoya McKenzie before he was sentenced to 31 years in federal prison for gunning down the promising high school basketball star in a crime that shocked Mount Vernon.
David Hardy had faced life in prison, while prosecutors had asked for 40 years behind bars. After serving his 252 months in federal prison, Hardy will then be on five years supervised release
"Today I sit before you a damaged young man," David Hardy said before he was sentenced in White Plains Federal Court. "I know I made mistakes. I take full responsibility for my actions. I can't place any blame on anybody else, go around it. I can't say sorry enough...If I could trade places, I would."
Shamoya McKenzie was on her way home from basketball practice when a bullet meant for a rival gang member struck the teen while she was sitting in her mother's car on New Year's Even in 2016.
McKenzie was talented and ambitious, and she dreamed of playing professional basketball before coming back to Mount Vernon to start a business.
Her dream school, the University of Connecticut, later presented her family with a jersey with her number on it.
Delivering one of the victim impact statements, McKenzie's tearful mother Nadine called Shamoya "fearless and determined, ready to lead her team forward."
"She had a big heart, never said no, she tried to help everyone at the same time," she said. "She was warm, loving, gentle, caring, respectful and funny. And she carried a smile all day long."
McKenzie then broke down, unable to continue, and a relative finished reading her statement.
"Her dreams were cut short when she was riding in a car with her mother, Nadine," Detectives Endowment Association President Paul DiGiacomo said. "Shamoya was shot by a stray bullet, which came through a window and struck her in the head. David Hardy was shooting recklessly at a rival gang member."
Assistant Mount Vernon High School Boys Varsity Basketball Coach Dwayne Murray said Shamoya was only the fifth girl to ever make his team, which he said was "shaken to its core" with the killing.
"We didn't just lose one promising life, we lost two," he said, explaining Hardy was also a former team member. "To use basketball for a better life, that dream was violently taken away from Shamoya by David Hardy."
Hardy was a promising talent himself, but he stopped attending practice. Murray said not following up with the boy's mother continues to haunt him.
"Maybe if I did, we wouldn't be here today," he said. "It's a guilt I will carry with me for the rest of my life. The real heart wrenching tragedy is this year would have been her first year in college. I have no doubt Shamoya would be wearing a UConn jersey today."
Prosecutors said when Hardy learned he had fatally shot the 13-year-old victim in a failed attempt to gun down a reputed gang rival, he bragged that he was finally able to "catch a body."
"You are not going to be around for important times, important dates" in your daughter's life, federal Judge Nelson Roman told him. "That's what you gave up by not following the basic tenants I know your mother taught you. Everyone, including yourself, is responsible for their own actions."
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