OCEAN CITY — Maryland State Police (MSP) criminal investigators are conducting an investigation into the death of a local man in the custody of the Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) early Tuesday morning.
The victim, identified as Byron Tunnell, 28, of Ocean City, had been arrested by OCPD fleeing from a traffic stop and was taken to Atlantic General Hospital after being tased and reportedly ingesting drugs. Tunnell was examined at AGH and released back into the custody of the OCPD, but complained he didn’t feel well and OCPD officers took him back to AGH at his request where he died from an apparent medical emergency.
Around 11 p.m. on Monday, an OCPD officer initiated a traffic stop on a vehicle in the area of 20th Street and Baltimore Avenue for a traffic violation. The driver, later identified as Tunnell, continued driving to the area of 26th Street and Bayshore Drive. Once he stopped his vehicle, Tunnell told OCPD officers he knew his license was suspended and wanted to get his car back to his house.
The OCPD officer informed Tunnell he was under arrest and attempted to handcuff him. However, when Tunnell resisted arrest, a back-up OCPD officer discharged his electronic control device, or taser. OCPD officers on the scene told investigators the taser did not have its usual effect and Tunnell was able to flee on foot from police.
Tunnell ran and tried to escape by going under a porch. As Tunnell ran, OCPD officers observed his discard what appeared to be drugs. OCPD officers later recovered two small baggies of suspected crack cocaine and glass smoking device from the scene.
OCPD officers took Tunnell into custody and immediately called emergency medical services to the scene, which is the protocol after the deployment of a taser. Paramedics responded to the scene and after an examination determined Tunnell needed no further medical intervention, according to police reports.
However, Tunnell requested to go to the hospital and OCPD officers agreed to take him. OCPD officers determined Tunnell should be taken to the hospital in a police department transport van since he had previously fled. An OCPD transport van took Tunnell to AGH where he was examined and released back into police custody around 1 a.m. on Tuesday.
Upon release from the hospital, Tunnell was placed back in the transport van to be taken to police headquarters in Ocean City for processing. The preliminary investigation indicates Tunnell was monitored through the audio and video system in the van by an OCPD officer and a public safety aide in the vehicle.
During the transport back to the police station, Tunnell told police he was not feeling well, but that he was okay. He also indicated to police he may have swallowed drugs prior to his arrest. Minutes later, police transport personnel observed Tunnell having what appeared to be a seizure. The van was immediately stopped and emergency medical services were requested to respond to the area of Baltimore Avenue and 12th Street.
OCPD officers began performing CPR on Tunnell prior to the arrival of EMS. Tunnell was then transported back to AGH where he was later pronounced deceased.
Maryland State Police Homicide Unit investigators are leading the investigation into the death at the request of the OCPD. MSP crime scene technicians are processing the scene for evidence. Assistance is being provided by the MSP Criminal Enforcement Division, the Worcester County Bureau of Investigation and the OCPD Criminal Investigation Division. MSP investigators have also been in contact with the Worcester County State’s Attorney’s Office. More information will be provided as it becomes available