AKRON, Ohio — The three suspects arrested in connection with the death of 17-year-old Ethan Liming, a 17-year-old at Firestone Community Learning Center who was beaten to death near the I PROMISE School in Akron, were arraigned on murder and felonious assault charges Monday.
Deshawn Stafford, 20, Tyler Stafford, 19, and Donovan Jones, 21, were arrested Saturday by members of the U.S. Marshals Service at a home in Akron.
All three men pleaded not guilty and are being held on a $1 million bond with 10% due. GPS monitoring will be ordered if a bond is posted.
Liming's parents attended the court hearing but declined to comment after it was over.
Police said the trio of young men is responsible for the brutal beating death of the popular student-athlete on the night of June 2.
According to investigators, Ethan was with a group of friends and at least one of them fired a toy gun— a SplatRBall Water Bead Blaster— around 10:45 p.m. at the suspects who were playing basketball on the courts.
Detectives said that led to a fight and Ethan was repeatedly punched and kicked. He died at the scene.
During the arraignment hearing, Attorney Jon Sinn, who is representing Deshawn Stafford, gave a brief version of what he believes happened before the tragedy and said the toy "seemed to be a fully automatic firearm."
"I would ask you to take into consideration that these boys were on the basketball court, unarmed, doing what we want them to do— playing basketball— when kids from outside the neighborhood came in— in a vehicle— and sprayed them with this crazy paintball gun," Sinn said.
Outside of the court, Tyler Stafford's aunt, Quida Maclin, of Cleveland, told reporters that she believes it was a case of self-defense.
"If somebody was shooting at me and I didn't know what it was, yes, I would react. Would it go that far? No, but I can't speak on their behalf," Maclin said.
However, Lt. Michael Miller said detectives investigating the homicide feel nothing justifies what happened to Ethan.
"We don't believe that the initial actions of that horseplay, or utilizing that splat gun, would rise to the level, would justify the level of that outcome," Miller said.
Miller said a reward of up to $30,000, including $25,000 from private donors, made a big difference in the investigation and several people may be eligible for a portion of that money.
"I'm told three or more separate people identified or provided information that led to the identification of the subjects," Miller said.
On Sunday, Bill Liming told News 5 he did not want to comment on the arrests, and instead, focused his energy on honoring his son's memory.
"He had a dream of being a lawyer and so we’re setting up a scholarship through Akron Public Schools and it will go for an Akron senior from Firestone that's an athlete who has collegiate dreams to help them with their goals," Bill Liming said. "The ugliness that we have seen, the good is so much brighter and this community is full of compassion and we're so thankful for them."
To donate to the scholarship, you're asked to submit any donation to the Ethan Liming Memorial Scholarship c/o Akron Public Schools, 10 N Main St, Akron, OH 44308, 330-761-2851.
A GoFundMe has also been set up to help cover legal fees involving the case. CLICK HERE for more information.
RELATED: Police arrest 3 in connection with beating death of Akron senior Ethan Liming
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