An Ohio family is desperate for answers after their 17-year-old son, Ethan Liming, was brutally beaten to death near a school basketball court on June 2 — the last day of his junior year.
Bill Liming, Ethan's father, described his son as an athlete at Firestone Community Learning Center, a public high school in Akron; an honors student; and a generally loving, charitable person with a "bright future" of him. The minister said his son would accompany him on mission trips to Richmond and other more local outings, donating food to community members in need.
Ethan played football and baseball, he had a 4.03 GPA, and he wanted to be a lawyer someday.
"I was supposed to be taking Ethan to college visits on Monday. His first college visit," Liming told Fox News Digital. "He wanted to become a lawyer, and he wanted to fight for people who weren't able to fight for themselves. He would have been fighting for the same people who murdered him. He cared for everybody."
"He was a beautiful boy," Liming continued.
Akron Police Department Chief Stephen Mylett described Ethan's killing as a "senseless act of violence" during a Wednesday press conference.
On the night of June 2, a Thursday, at 10:49 p.m., police received a call regarding a fight in a parking lot next to an elementary school basketball court. The court, which is apparently lit at all hours of the night, according to Liming, is part of a public elementary school in Akron supported by the LeBron James Family Foundation called the "I Promise School."
Officers arrived within three minutes of the first 911 call and found an Ethan laying on the ground in the parking lot. Authorities attempted life-saving measures but were unable to revive the teenager, and he was pronounced dead at the scene, Mylett said.
The fight supposedly began with a water bead gun.
Ethan and three of his friends drove into the parking lot of the basketball court that night so that they could text their friends to make plans for the remainder of the evening, according to the elder Liming.
Two of his friends got out of the vehicle and started shooting a toy "SplatRBall" gun, which is described as a rechargeable, full-auto and semi-auto water bead gun. The water beads explode when they hit a target. The toy gun is listed as $68 on Walmart's website.
Ethan's father said his son has hit him with the toy gun before, and the gel bullets feel like a "rubber band snap."
The two boys playing with the water bead gun then began shooting toward a group of four individuals playing on the basketball court. Eventually, an altercation ensued between the four individuals on the basketball court and the four boys in the parking lot, including Ethan.
Three occupants of the vehicle, including Ethan, were assaulted.
"My son got out [of the vehicle] to try and let everybody know that it wasn't serious. They were just goofing around, and a fight ensued. One man attacked him, then a second man attacked him, and he was trying to fight for his life. And a third guy came in and knocked him to the ground, and they slowly beat him to death. They crushed his skull," Liming said.
Authorities are still trying to nail down suspects in the case, though no new information about the perpetrators had been released as of Friday afternoon. Ethan's friends who were also beaten that night are "pretty traumatized" and "scared" after what happened, Liming explained.
He is begging anyone with information about the incident to have the courage to come forward.
"He had a very bright future. He was well-loved. And his friends have been so wonderfully supportive to his little brother," Ethan's father said. "He was with a really good group of guys, and they were out trying to have fun, trying to be teenagers, and they ran into some people I wish they have never met in their lives."
Liming believes the perpetrators may have targeted his son because he was the tallest in the group, standing at 6 ft., 1 in. Ethan's friends "did everything they could" to try to save their friend's life, but to no avail, he said.
Ethan's killing is one of many acts of violence that have left teenagers across the U.S. dead in recent weeks as the school year comes to a close.
Last month, Connecticut high schooler James McGrath was fatally stabbed outside a house party; his suspected juvenile killer, Raul Valle, was released on $2 million bond. In Baltimore, 17-year-old Jasmine Brunson was fatally shot at an after-prom party; police are still searching for the suspect in his death as of Friday. In the past week, teenage boys were shot to death in Phoenix; Chicago; Washington, D.C. and other major cities across the U.S.
"There's just a lot of kids getting hurt. It's a nightmare. It's an absolute nightmare," Liming said when asked whether similar instances have occurred in Akron recently, adding that there is a lot of "hate in the country right now."
Mylett said the "entire country is dealing with a plague of violence," and "Akron is not immune from that."
Akron Mayor Daniel Horrigan had a similar message during Wednesday's press briefing.
"There are troubling trends around the country when it comes to senseless acts of violence — and this is about Ethan, and to his family and to his churchgoers and people he played sports with — my condolences from me and the city of Akron to you and your family," Horrigan said. "This is a trend…mayors across the country have seen, and there are a number of victims of gun violence and of violence that we need to find a solution for."
A $30,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest of the suspects in Ethan's killing. The Akron Police Department's investigation into the incident is active and ongoing.