‘These Boys Were Not Looking for Trouble’: Ohio Brothers Linked to Death of 17-Year-Old Who Shot Them with a Water Pellet Gun Found Not Guilty of Involuntary Manslaughter

A Summit County, Ohio, jury handed down not-guilty verdicts on Sept. 25 for the two brothers linked to the death of 17-year-old Ethan Liming. 

In June 2022, Liming was riding around with his friends in Akron, Ohio, shooting people with a gel gun, a non-lethal gun that contains pellets soaked in water, when things went awry. 

The group arrived at a parking lot and began striking Deshawn Stafford, his brother, Tyler, and their cousin Donovon Jones, who were playing basketball at the time outside of I Promise School started by NBA superstar LeBron James, according to Cleveland.com. 

(Clockwise from top left) brothers Tyler and Deshawn Stafford were found not guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the beating death of Ethan Liming, who provoked the 2022 fatal confrontation by shooting the two on a basketball court with beads from his water gun. (Photos: News 5 Cleveland/Youtube Screenshot)

After getting shot in the face, Deshawn confronted Liming, which sparked a fight and led his family members to join him, the outlet reported. Deshawn knocked Liming out during the altercation, leading him to hit his head on the ground, resulting in his death. 

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An autopsy report revealed that Liming’s cause of death was due to blunt force head injuries and was ruled a homicide, WKYC reported. First responders found him unresponsive at the scene. 

The Stafford brothers and Jones were arrested, charged with murder, and held for $1 million. However, per the outlet, the charges were reduced in August 2022. On Monday, Deshawn, 21, and his 20-year-old brother, Tyler, were cleared on the involuntary manslaughter charges, WKYC reported, but both brothers were found guilty of assault.


Deshawn was also convicted of an additional charge of aggravated assault, and his bond was revoked immediately. There was notably a mistrial for one of Deshawn’s charges, another count of involuntary manslaughter, and it is not known if he will be retried on that charge, according to the outlets. Their cousin, Jones, who was reportedly charged with two counts of assault, pleaded no contest and was convicted. 

The Staffords’ defense team said the brothers defended themselves.

“Under Ohio law, a person is allowed to use force in self-defense or in defense of another. You’re allowed to do that,” attorney John Sinn said. “You don’t have to back up from a fight. … He met a punch with a punch. These boys were not looking for trouble. Trouble came looking for them.”

The prosecution disagreed. 

“Maybe (Deshawn) should have punched him, but that is a one-on-one fight,” prosecutor Jennie Shuki said. “But it does not stay that way. It escalates. Tyler has got to run over and get in the fight. Donovon has got to run over and get in the fight. How is that now a fair fight at all? It’s not. It becomes an attack.”

The duo is expected to be sentenced late next month. If convicted of the involuntary manslaughter charges, the brothers would have each faced an 11-year prison sentence. Deshawn’s aggravated assault charge carries a maximum penalty of 18 months in prison, while the assault charges are misdemeanors with a maximum one-year prison term.

“But oh, my Lord, what an outcome. Because of a toy gun, Ethan Liming died right there on the parking lot,” Shuki said in court, per WKYC.

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