Ocean City man dies in police custody; death investigation ongoing

OCEAN CITY, Md. - Following a request from the Ocean City Police Department, Maryland State Police criminal investigators are investigating a death on Tuesday morning of a suspect who had been arrested and examined at a hospital, but for reasons unknown at this time, had what seems to be a medical emergency and died after being transported back to the hospital.

The deceased is identified as 28-year-old Byron Tunnell of Ocean City. He was pronounced dead at Atlantic General Hospital in Berlin. Investigators say that just before 11:00 PM on Monday, an Ocean City police officer stopped a 2004 Chrysler passenger car for a traffic violation on Baltimore Avenue near 20th Street, in Ocean City.

The driver of the car, later identified as Tunnell, continued driving to the area of the 400 block of Bayshore Drive, near 26th Street. Upon stopping, Tunnell reportedly told the officer that he knew his license was suspended and he wanted to get his car back to his house. Police say that the officer told Tunnell that he was under arrest and the officer tried to handcuff Tunnell.

Tunnell allegedly resisted arrest and a backup officer tasered him. Officers on the scene said that the device did not have its usual effect and that Tunnell ran away from police. Tunnell reportedly ran and tried to escape by going underneath a porch. Police say that as he ran, officers saw him throwing away what seemed to be drugs.

Police say that officers later found two small baggies of suspected crack cocaine and a glass smoking device from the scene. Police say that officers took Tunnell into custody at the porch and immediately called emergency medical services to the scene, which is protocol after deployment of an electronic control device.

Medics responded to the scene and after an examination reportedly found that Tunnell needed no further medical intervention. Tunnell reportedly asked to go to the hospital and officers agreed to take him there. Police say that officers determined that he should be taken to the hospital in a police department transport van, since he had previously fled.

An Ocean City Police Department transport van responded and took Tunnell to Atlantic General Hospital. He was examined in the hospital and released back into police custody shortly before 1:00 AM on Tuesday.

Upon release from the hospital, Tunnell was placed back into the transport van to be taken to the police department for booking. Investigators say that Tunnell was monitored through the audio and video system in the van by the police officer and public safety aid in the vehicle. During the transport back to the police station, Tunnell reportedly told police personnel that he was not feeling well, but was okay.

He also told police that he may have swallowed drugs before his arrest. Minutes later, police transport personnel reportedly found that Tunnell was having what appeared to be a seizure. The van was immediately stopped and emergency medical services were asked to respond to the area of Baltimore Avenue and 12th Street. Officers began performing C.P.R. before E.M.S arrived.

Tunnell was transported by ambulance back to Atlantic General Hospital where he was later pronounced dead. Maryland State Police Homicide Unit investigators are leading the investigation into his death at the request of the Ocean City Police Department. State Police crime scene technicians are processing the scenes for evidence.

Assistance is being provided by the State Police Criminal Enforcement Division, the Worcester County Bureau of Investigation and the Ocean City Police Department Criminal Investigations Division. Investigators have also been in contact with the Worcester County State's Attorney.

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