Defendants in beating death of Ethan Liming felt like 'they were in the right' to steal vehicle: lawyer

"It was more of a situation of, 'You guys are going to stay here. You guys are gonna stay here until the cops come, you're going to have to explain the situation.'"

Hannah Nightingale Washington DC

An attorney representing one of the three suspects arrested in connection to the brutal death of 17-year-old Ethan Liming earlier this month has questioned the suspects’ motive in moving the victim’s car at the scene.

21-year-old Donovan Jones, 20-year-old DeShawn Stafford Jr., and 19-year-old Tyler Stafford were all arrested in connection to the June 2 death of Ethan Liming on school grounds in Akron, Ohio. They are being held on $1 million bond.

According to Fox News, Jonathan Sinn, who is representing DeShawn Stafford, said that while the suspects did take away the victim’s car that Liming’s friends were trying to use to get him to the hospital, as well as a water bead gun, the reasoning behind taking the car was not to keep Liming from reaching the hospital.

Sinn said that the suspects moved the car to keep Liming and his group of friends on-scene until police arrived, though his client and the other suspects allegedly fled from the scene that night.

"My understanding is it wasn't moved in an effort to try and prevent anyone from getting help," Sinn said. "It was more of a situation of, 'You guys are going to stay here. You guys are gonna stay here until the cops come, you're going to have to explain the situation.’ So they didn't want the other boys taking off because they really felt they were in the right."

Akron Police Chief Steve Mylett told reporters that when police arrived at the scene that night, "nobody was on-scene."

Sinn said that he received this rendition of the events that transpired that night from Stafford’s family.

In court earlier this week, Sinn said that DeShawn Stafford was attempting to defend himself after himself, his brother, and his cousin saw "a car-load of teenagers … with, what at the time seemed to be a fully automatic firearm."

The firearm referenced to by Sinn was not a fully automatic firearm, but rather an orange and white SPLATRBALL water bead gun, police said. The gun shoots rehydrated water gel balls.

Liming’s cause of death was determined to be blunt force trauma received to the head on the night of June 2.

According to Fox News, said that Liming and a group of friends were in a vehicle "riding around the surrounding area shooting a SPLATRBALL Water Bead Blaster at objects and possibly unsuspecting people."

The group then pulled into the property of the Promise School, and began approaching the basketball court, where the three suspects were playing basketball.

"The teens then appeared to have targeted or approached the subjects who were on the court and fired the gel soft gun at them," police said. "The collective actions of the teens in the car appear to have unfortunately provoked the altercation."

Police say that at least two of the people who were inside the car with Liming exited the vehicle, and shot the water bead gun towards those on the basketball court, then allegedly ran back to their vehicle. It was at this point that a fight broke out.

Affidavits related to the arrests of the suspects described how the group was involved in "an altercation with Liming," and that they "stomped and kicked" Liming numerous times, including once he was unconscious on the ground. Three other people who were with Liming were also allegedly beaten by the group of suspects.

Jones allegedly stole one of the friends’ phones as they attempted to call 911, while Tyler and DeShawn Stafford took the victim’s car and "drove it to the other end of the lot" when his friends attempted to bring him to the hospital.

When asked why his client didn’t turn himself in sooner, Sinn said that DeShawn was "working with family to try and obtain counsel. He wanted to go with a lawyer."

"My heart goes out to Ethan's family," Sinn said. "But none of us know what happened that night. None of us were there. We're going to have to let the court system play out."

Liming’s father, Bill Liming, told Fox News that his son was an honors student, where he received a 4.03 GPA and played baseball and football.

Liming said in a statement on Tuesday that his family "is confident that when the facts of the case are presented in court, Ethan will get justice. People are going to say what they are going to say."

All three suspects were charged with murder and felonious assault. Jones was also charged with disrupting public service. Each has pleaded not guilty to the charges.


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