WATERLOO - Darnell Demery, 18, thought 2006 was going to be the best year of his life. He looked forward to graduating from high school, getting a job and finding a home of his own.

All that changed in December, a month before the year even started, with an afternoon fist fight on Riehl Street.

Someone began wielding a snow shovel. One group fled, then returned. They fired shots at Demery's friends, people who authorities say are members of a gang.

One teenager was hit in the leg.

Soon Demery and others were driving around, looking to get even. They found a car carrying members of the opposing gang, and Demery charged at the vehicle holding a pistol. One of his friends, Ryan Harper, fired a few shots.

Because of that, Demery celebrated his 18th birthday in the Black Hawk County Jail. He could spend the next decade of his life behind bars.

In court for sentencing Thursday, Demery said he wants to get his life back on track.

"I've been in jail for so long, I changed my ways. I realized this is were I don't want to be," Demery said.

His eyes veered from Judge Kellyann Lekar only when Demery looked down at the handcuffs binding his wrists.

Demery said his goal is to earn parole before he turns 21, and he wants a chance to get a high school diploma.

"I just want to be right, judge," he said. "I'm going to do my time and be legit."

Judge Lekar sentenced Demery to 10 years in prison for a charge of intimidation with a weapon and concurrent five-year sentence for going armed with intent and assault while participating in a felony.

Harper earlier pleaded guilty and was given up to 10 years in prison with a consecutive five-year suspended sentence to follow.

Also charged in the incidents were Demarcus Sanders, 18, and Curtis Williams, 18, who were involved in the first shooting, and Teondis Morehead, 18, who drove while Sanders and Williams fired.

Sanders, 18, pleaded to intimidation with a weapon, willful injury causing bodily injury and going armed. Sentencing will be later.

Williams was sentenced to 20 years in prison, and Morehead was sentenced to 10 years.

Contact Jeff Reinitz at (319) 291-1578 or jeff.reinitz@wcfcourier.com.

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