The man who shot and killed a 17-year-old inside Fayette Mall in 2020 has been sentenced for manslaughter, assault and wanton endangerment charges which he pleaded guilty to in March.
Xavier Hardin, 21, was sentenced to a total of 22 years in prison for several of his charges. He appeared before Fayette County Judge Lucy VanMeter who sentenced him on Thursday afternoon in Fayette Circuit Court.
Hardin pleaded guilty in the killing of Kenneth Bottoms Jr. after reaching a plea agreement in March, according to court records. Hardin, who was 19 at the time of the incident, also injured two bystanders when he fired shots inside the mall on Aug. 23, 2020.
Hardin was also ordered to pay $8,212 in restitution charges for Bottoms’ funeral and burial expenses. Hardin was credited for 619 days of time already served in jail.
“There is no other way to characterize the day other than tragic. That day is something Mr. Hardin wishes be could take back and has played over in his mind many, many times,” Hardin’s attorney said.
Victim’s mother: ‘He did not deserve what happened to him’
Before his sentence was read aloud by the judge, both of the victim’s parents had an opportunity to speak.
Kenneth Bottoms Sr., the father, said he had dreaded the sentencing day, and originally wasn’t going to speak but it came to his heart to speak.
“I just really don’t understand why it could not have been hashed out in a different way,” he said.
He turned to Hardin and said that while he understood that he was young and wanted to get something out of his life after prison, he needed time to think about what he had done.
“You are going to have to have time to think about this,” Bottoms Sr. said. “If you have kids, do you want it to end up like this? It doesn’t have to come to gun violence, there (are) other ways for this to be hashed out. I pray for you, and I hope you learn something from this, but just please value human life.”
The victim’s mother also spoke, and said she and her son had a bond unlike any other.
“He always told me he loved me before he hung up the phone,” said Anjanette Clay. “He was not perfect by any means, but none of us are. He did not deserve what happened to him. I will never be able to see my son again, hug him, hear his laugh, or tell him I love him again. Neither will anyone else.
“I wake up at night waiting for him to come home, or thinking about him. I love him and miss him everyday.”
Hardin responded and said he did not take pride in any of his actions.
“I regret this situation and I am so sorry to all that love Mr. Bottoms, and I deeply apologize for putting other lives in danger with those bullets that hit those innocent people,” Hardin said.
‘Gun violence in this community is a plague on the community’
VanMeter said the bottom line was Hardin went inside a public mall with a loaded weapon and opened fire.
“Gun violence in this community is a plague on the community and that sentence is appropriate for your actions on that day,” VanMeter said.
When the shooting occurred, Hardin was confronted inside the mall by Bottoms and three men who accompanied him, according to court testimony. Detective Brandon Gibbs previously testified in court that the group yelled expletives at Hardin.
Footage of the altercation was played in a court hearing, and Hardin’s attorneys filed photos from the surveillance footage in court records.
One of Bottoms’ friends tried to pull Bottoms away from the argument, according to court records. He was unsuccessful.
One witness testified to police that Bottoms spit on Hardin during the argument, according to court records. Another noted hearing expletives. Another said they heard Hardin ask, “You don’t think I’ll pull it out?”
As the argument intensified, bystanders started to flee, according to the video. Hardin then pulled a gun out of his waistband and fired, striking Bottoms.
Some bystanders dove to the floor while others ran. One bystander tried to perform chest compressions on the victim.