AKRON, Ohio — Three men initially charged by police for murder and felonious assault in connection with the death of 17-year-old Firestone Community Learning Center senior Ethan Liming were indicted on lesser charges of assault and involuntary manslaughter.
A Summit County grand jury indicted the three men on the following charges in the Summit County Court of Common Pleas:
- Deshawn Stafford, age 20: Two counts of involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, and assault
- Tyler Stafford, age 19: Involuntary manslaughter and assault
- Donovon Jones, age 21: Two counts of assault
F-1 involuntary manslaughter, which Deshawn Stafford faces, carries a potential prison sentence of 3 to 11 years. F-3 involuntary manslaughter, which both Stafford bothers face, carries a potential prison sentence of 9 months to 3 years.
The assault charges against Jones are misdemeanors.
DeShawn and Tyler Stafford, and their cousin, Jones, were initially arraigned on murder and felonious assault charges after being arrested by members of the U.S. Marshals Service at a home in Akron last month.
Brad Gessner, chief counsel for the Summit County Prosecutor's Office, said the grand jury— made up of a group of citizens— were given several options to consider, including murder, voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter and reckless homicide.
"Our office presented the facts of the case and the facts of the case added additional information than what is generally known by the public, and we believe those facts impacted the decision of the grand jury," Gessner told News 5 Thursday. Prosecutors won't reveal the addiitional information.
When reached for comment early Thursday, Ethan's father Bill Liming said in an initial statement to News 5: "Our family is both devastated and disgusted.”
Liming sent a second statement to News 5 later in the day Thursday, which can be read at the end of this report.
Attorneys for both the Liming family and the suspects are also speaking out after the indictment was filed.
"Well, I think the family feels like their son was murdered once, and then he has been murdered again by the system, and I don't think they'll ever feel differently," said Mike Callahan, the attorney for the Liming family.
Attorney Eddie Sipplen, who represents Jones, believes the defendants should not be charged at all, calling it a case of self-defense.
"My client and his cousins and were playing basketball, minding their business, until they got shot at, regardless of whether it was a Splat gun or a real gun or what have you. They were assaulted," Sipplen said.
Jon Sinn, who represents Deshawn Stafford, said the indictments indicate the defendants were not the "primary aggressors."
"The prosecutors presented evidence, but the grand jury thought, no, something more happened here. Those other boys started it and Deshawn and his friends had a reason to do what they did and stand their ground and that's going to be our position in this case. These boys stood their ground," Sinn said.
The arrests came after Ethan, a rising senior and football and baseball player at the Firestone school in Akron, was found beaten to death near the basketball courts of the I PROMISE School on Thursday, 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 men 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 an arraignment hearing on the original murders charges at Akron Municipal court in June, Attorney Sinn gave a brief version of what he believes happened before the tragedy and said the toy "seemed to be a fully automatic firearm."
Lee Plakas, another attorney representing the Liming family in issues arising from his death, sent a letter to News 5 Thursday condemning TikTok and other social media platforms, as they "target and encourage their users to participate in internet 'challenges' involving reckless and dangerous activities in which injury or death are foreseeable." Plakas cited other TikTok challenges, such as the "Black Out Challenge, Tide Pod Challenge, Slap A Teacher Challenge, Splat Gun Challenge."
Plakas also lays blame on "certain product manufacturers, such as the makers of toy guns," for promoting the danger created by these challenges and advertising use of their toys in conjunction with them.
Read Plakas's full letter here.
Later in the day Thursday, Ethan's father sent an additional statement to News 5, which reads, in full:
On behalf of our family, we are grieving. We are a beautifully multi-cultural family with white, African American, and Filipino family members who share the vision of strength by coming together rather than pulling apart everything we hold dear at the seams. Rather than become bitter, we are choosing to fall back on our faith. We have always taught all of our children to love everyone. We will continue that lesson knowing full well that not everyone in the world we live in feels the same. Our family will continue to let faith guide us through these unbelievable times and we will pay better attention to our surroundings and where we go.
This summer has been a horrific summer of violence and tragedy here in Akron. Our family is not the only ones who have had to suffer. We know that every situation is different but we also recognize a common grief that our family shares with so many other families whose loved ones have been taken from them, both young and old. We stand shoulder to shoulder with all of the families who are struggling in their grief just as we are struggling beside them with ours. Love will win. Of that, I am certain- not politics, not division, but love. And so by love our family will find a way. That is who we are.
RELATED: 3 arrested in connection with beating death of Ethan Liming held on $1 million bond each
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