3 Arrested in Connection to Fatal Beating of Teen at ‘I Promise School’ Basketball Court

Authorities arrested three individuals wanted by Ohio police for allegedly beating 17-year-old Ethan Liming to death outside the “I Promise School” basketball court in Akron earlier this month.

Liming’s body was discovered in a parking lot near the courts at about 10:45 p.m. on June 2, police said. The teen was “brutally assaulted” during a fight and knocked unconscious.

The U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) revealed that the federal agency’s Northern Ohio Violent Fugitive Task Force and the Akron Police Department (APD) worked together to arrest Deshawn Stafford Jr., 20, Tyler Stafford, 19, and Donovon Jones, 21, according to a June 11 news release.

The three suspects have all been charged with murder and felonious assault, ABC5 reported. Jones is also facing a disrupting public service charge.

“Ethan’s senseless and tragic death has touched every person in our community,” said Dan Horrigan, the mayor of Akron.

The USMS said members of the APD identified the three suspects and obtained warrants for their arrests. The two agencies jointly arrested Deshawn and Tyler Stafford early on June 11 at a home on North Howard Street. Jones was arrested at a residence located on Crosby Street.

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Deshawn Stafford Jr., Tyler Stafford, and Donovon Jones were arrested in connection to the murder of Ethan Liming in Akron, Ohio. (Courtesy of Akron Police Department)

“We will continue to follow any leads that will result in bringing those responsible for Ethan’s death to justice,” Akron Police Chief Stephen Mylett said. “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.”

Peter Elliott, the longest-serving Marshal in Ohio’s history, said the federal agency will continue to provide all necessary resources to help Akron authorities combat violent crime.

“This crime impacted an entire community and we stand alongside the community in seeking justice for Ethan,” Elliott said.

Police were dispatched on June 2 after a 911 call in which Liming’s friends explained that they got involved in a fight with at least three other people who were also present at the court playing basketball. The teen was found unresponsive with severe injuries at about 10:45 p.m. and was pronounced dead about 20 minutes later.

The dispute was reportedly prompted after several friends of Liming discharged a water gun at four people playing basketball near the I Promise School court. The water gel gun was also recovered at the scene of the crime.

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A SPLATRBALL Water Bead Blaster was recovered at the murder scene. (Courtesy of Akron Police Department)
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Ethan Liming, 17, was a rising senior and understudy pioneer at Firestone Community Learning Center in Akron, Ohio. (Stan Foraker via GoFundMe)

“Shortly after their arrival, they got out of their vehicle, and at least two members of occupants of the vehicle started discharging a, what we know now to be a SPLATRBALL Water Bead Blaster,” Mylett said.

Initially, the four individuals started running away from the teens with water guns, the police chief said, adding that they returned later to the court’s parking lot where Liming and his friends were stationed.

“A confrontation occurs. Ethan Liming is assaulted, and a fight ensues. At the conclusion of it, Ethan Liming is dead,” Mylett said.

Liming has been described by Akron Public Schools (APS) as a rising senior and understudy pioneer at Firestone Community Learning Center in Akron. He is the fourth student at the school to have died in the past month.

A 15-year-old APS student was fatally shot in an altercation on May 24 and a pair of siblings died in a house fire that same week.

The I Promise School was created through the Los Angeles Lakers LeBron James Family Foundation and is part of the Akron Public School District, with students from 3rd through 7th grades attending.

The LeBron James Family Foundation expressed its condolences on social media.

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LeBron James addresses the media after the opening ceremonies of the I Promise School on July 30, 2018, in Akron, Ohio. (Jason Miller/Getty Images)

“Our community is everything to us. We were devastated to learn of the overnight incident that saw a life lost near our school,” the foundation wrote on Twitter.

“We are grieving with our community over another senseless act of violence. Our campus is safe and secure as we continue to do everything we can to support our students, families, and the entire Akron community.”

Relatives of Liming set up a GoFundMe fundraiser for his memorial and his grieving family. The page has so far collected more than $28,000.