A rising high school senior was brutally beaten to death outside an Ohio school created by LeBron James’ foundation last week, and a $30,000 reward is being offered for information leading to an arrest in his death.
Ethan Liming, 17, died June 2 after a fight in the parking lot of the I Promise School in Akron, Ohio, in an incident police are calling a "senseless act of violence."
Liming and his friends were in a car shooting at people with a toy water gun when a physical fight between the juveniles and another group took a deadly turn.
Officers were dispatched around 10:45 p.m. Thursday to the parking lot of 400 West Market Street, just east of the basketball court of the I Promise School, on a call of a fight.
When they arrived, they found a boy, later identified as Liming, lying on the ground unresponsive.
Aid was rendered to Liming, but “unfortunately their efforts were unsuccessful and Ethan was pronounced dead at the scene,” Akron police Chief Stephen Mylett said in a news conference Wednesday.
The Summit County Medical Examiner’s Office said he died from a blunt force head injury and the manner of death was homicide.
Mylett shared a preliminary narrative Wednesday of the events leading to Liming’s death.
Four juveniles in Liming's car were riding around the area of the school shooting a SplatRBall Water Bead Blaster gel gun "at objects and possibly unsuspecting people," police said.
The gun has beads that explode with water “like a water balloon,” Mylett said.
The group arrived at the parking lot of the school around 10:40 p.m. and two occupants exited the vehicle and started to shoot the gel gun toward four people playing basketball on the nearby court.
The four basketball players started to run away, with the two occupants of the vehicle appearing to run after them. It is not clear if Liming was one of the two. Moments later, as the duo returned to their vehicle, the basketball players ran in the direction of the car, Mylett said.
“A confrontation occurs. Ethan Liming is assaulted and a fight ensues,” Mylett said. “At the conclusion of it, Ethan Liming is dead.”
Three of the four occupants of Liming’s vehicle were assaulted in the confrontation, he added.
"The collective actions of the teens in the car appear to have unfortunately provoked the altercation," Akron police said in a news update, adding " investigators do not believe the attack or the murder were remotely justified."
Liming was a rising senior at Firestone Community Learning Center, where he was enrolled in the Academy of Design, Akron Public Schools Superintendent Christine Fowler Mack said in a statement to faculty and staff after his death.
"Ethan was an athlete, a school leader … and young man with a bright future. The circumstances of how he died will stay with (us) for a very long time," she wrote in a statement shared with NBC News.
Liming's father, Bill, a minister, told NBC affiliate WKYC of Cleveland: “My son died because of a toy. And just goofing around as a teenager.”
He described his son as his “sidekick.” Liming played baseball and football and had a 14-year-old brother and three stepsiblings.
“His little brother is just devastated. Noah idolized his big brother, Ethan. He can’t sleep in his bed. He can’t come close to anything that was Ethan’s. We’re devastated,” his father said.
The incident has shaken the community in Akron.
The LeBron James Family Foundation said it was “devastated” to learn of “the overnight incident that saw a life lost near our school.”
“We are grieving with our community over another senseless act of violence.”
Of the $30,000 being offered for information leading to the identification, arrest and prosecution of any persons responsible for Liming’s death, $25,000 is from a private donor, officials said. The rest is from the Summit County Crimestoppers Inc.
Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan said in a statement: "There is no justification for this murder, and I implore anyone with information to please come forward and help Ethan and his family get the justice they deserve.”