(NewsNation) — U.S. marshals have arrested three people suspected of fatally beating an Ohio teen outside of a school funded by professional basketball player LeBron James.
Saturday morning, the U.S. Marshals Northern Ohio Violent Fugitive Task Force arrested Deshawn Stafford, Jr., 20, Tyler Stafford, 19, and Donovon Jones, 21, in connection to the death of 17-year-old Ethan Liming in Akron, Ohio, on June 2.
In the moments leading up to the end of Liming’s life, the Akron Police Department says Liming was riding around in a vehicle with three other people shooting a SPLATRBALL Water Bead Blaster at objects and possibly unsuspecting people. The teens pulled into an area of Market Street near the basketball court outside of I Promise School.
From there, Akron police believe the teens targeted or approached people on the basketball court, firing the gel soft gun that police have described as a toy at them. Investigators say this sparked a fight that left Liming dead.
A 911 call was placed at the scene. Arriving three minutes later, police found no one but an unresponsive Liming there. The 17-year-old was pronounced dead at the scene.
“The collective actions of the teens in the car appear to have unfortunately provoked the altercation,” Akron Police said in part. “While these actions appear to have played a role in the incident, investigators do not believe the attack or the murder were remotely justified.”
In an effort to clear up misinformation about the case, Akron police also commented: “There were assumptions made that this was a race-related incident. There is nothing that we have in our possession right now, any information at all, indicating that race played a role in this homicide — nothing. I want to reassure the community that if we do receive information that race played a role in this, as in any homicide, we will consult with our prosecuting attorneys and add additional charges.”
Liming attended the Harvey S. Firestone CLC in Akron, where he played on the baseball and football teams. The school said he will be dearly missed.
“Our Firestone Family is broken hearted and devastated to learn of the loss of Ethan Liming. We extend our deepest heartfelt condolences to his family and loved ones,” Firestone posted on their Facebook page.
LeBron James, whose Family Foundation supports the I Promise School, also sent his condolences.
“Our condolences goes out to the family who lost a loved one!! May the heavens above watch over you during this tragedy! Pray for our community,” James tweeted.
Akron Police Chief Stephen Mylett said news of the arrests linked to Liming’s death is welcomed, but it won’t bring Liming back to his family.
“I am happy to report that today, officers with the Akron Police Department, made several arrests in connection with the death of Ethan Liming. We thank the members of the community for their outpouring of support that helped investigators throughout this investigation. We will continue to follow any leads that will result in bringing those responsible for Ethan’s death to justice. While I believe the news of the arrests will be welcomed by Ethan’s family and loved ones, we all recognize that nothing will bring Ethan back. Violence in this country must stop. We are losing too many lives to senseless acts of violence,” Mylett said.
Suspects Stafford Jr., Jones and Stafford have warrants issued against them for homicide. The U.S. Marshals Service said they will help the Akron community with any resources needed to get justice for Liming.