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Police: Fight that killed 17-year-old in Akron started after teen's group fired toy gun at suspects

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Anna Huntsman
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Ideastream Public Media
Akron Police Chief Stephen Mylett (second from left) shows a water gun similar to the one that appears to have provoked an altercation at the I Promise School in Akron on June 2. Ethan Liming, 17, was beaten to death in the fight, police said. Also photographed, from left: Mayor Dan Horrigan, Mylett, detective Capt. Chris Brewer and Chief City Prosecutor Craig Morgan.

Akron police have revealed new details on the altercation in which a 17-year-old was beaten to death near the I Promise School in Akron last week.

Ethan Liming, a rising senior at Firestone Community Learning Center, died from suffering a blunt force head injury in an assault near the school’s basketball courts on West Market Street in Akron on June 2, according to investigators.

Minutes before, Liming and three other teens drove into the parking lot, where the suspects were playing basketball, and at least two individuals in the car began shooting at the suspects with a toy water bead gel gun, Akron Police Chief Stephen Mylett said in a Wednesday news conference.

“At least two members, occupants of the vehicle, started discharging what we know now to be a 'Splat R Ball' water bead blaster gel gun," Mylett said. "They started discharging it at the direction of four individuals who were playing basketball on the basketball court.”

The toy gun shoots water-filled beads that enlarge when submerged in water.

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Akron Police Department
The toy water gun and beads recovered at the scene of where 17-year-old Ethan Liming died after being beaten to death in a fight near the I Promise School. According to police, at least two people shot the water gun at the suspects, who then confronted the group and assaulted three people, including Liming.

Mylett declined to say whether the suspects were hit with the beads or whether they may have thought the gun was shooting bullets or BBs.

The suspects on the court confronted the individuals in the car and a fight broke out, Mylett said. In addition to Liming, two other passengers were assaulted, he said.

The suspects have not been identified or interviewed yet by police, Mylett said.

Although the fight seems to have been provoked by the passengers shooting the toy gun, Mylett said neither the assault nor killing were “remotely justified.”

“Ethan Liming did not deserve to die that night, in that parking lot, at that hour, based on what we know,” he said.

It's unclear where the other passengers in the car went, but Mylett said that Liming was alone when beaten to death.

Akron police have received numerous tips and conducted interviews since the incident occurred and have viable leads, said Mylett, who added there has also been misinformation circulating on social media.

“There were assumptions made that this was a race-related incident," Mylett said. "There is nothing that we have in our possession right now, any information at all, indicating that race played a role in this homicide. 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.”

Two passengers, including Liming, are white, and the other two passengers are African American, he said. Police are not releasing the races of the suspects.

Mayor Dan Horrigan was also at Wednesday’s press conference and expressed his condolences to Liming’s loved ones.

Police are asking the suspects to come forward. Anyone with information should call call detectives at 330-375-2490 or 330-375-2Tip; call the Summit County Crime Stoppers at 330-434-COPS; or text TIPSCO with tips to 274637.

Anna Huntsman covers Akron and Canton for Ideastream Public Media.