Arrestee Dies in Ocean City Police Officers’ Custody

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Photo via Police Car Archives

A 28-year-old man died early this morning in Ocean City police custody after having an apparent seizure — even after authorities took him to the hospital for an evaluation following a violent arrest.

The late arrestee was 28-year-old Bryon K. Tunnell, an Ocean City resident. Ocean City police officers pulled him over just before 11 p.m. last night on Baltimore Avenue after seeing him commit a traffic violation, according to a release from Maryland State Police, which is investigating the incident.

Tunnell initially didn’t stop for six blocks, authorities said; he told them his license was suspended and he was trying to get his car home. When officers then attempted to cuff him, he resisted, so an officer decided to deploy a taser.

That didn’t work, and Tunnell took off running and tried to escape under a porch. Officers eventually caught up with him – in the process recovering two bags of suspected crack cocaine and a glass pipe that he’d allegedly tossed – and arrested him.

Once he was in custody, medics arrived and evaluated Tunnell, a standard procedure after using a taser, according to police. Even though they found he didn’t need furhter medical intervention, Tunnell asked to go to the hospital. The officers obliged, opting to use a police transport van since he tried to flee before. Staff at Atlantic General Hospital in Berlin then examined Tunnell and deemed him fit for release. The cops had him back in the van just before 1 a.m. this morning.

But on the ride to the police station, something went wrong. Tunnell said “he was not feeling well, but was okay,” according to police, and indicated he might’ve swallowed drugs before the arrest. Minutes later, he had an apparent seizure. Officers performed CPR before medics arrived to take him back to the hospital. Medical personnel pronounced him dead this morning.

Tunnell’s cause of death remains unknown, according to Maryland State Police. The agency noted the Ocean City cops had monitored him through an audio-visual system in the van, and that a public safety aid was present.

Investigators from the state police homicide unit have been called in to investigate Tunnell’s death. The department’s Criminal Enforcement Division, the Worcester County Bureau of Investigation and the OCPD Criminal Investigation Division are assisting, and investigators have also been in touch with the Worcester County State’s Attorney’s Office.

Reached by phone, an Ocean City police spokeswoman said the department has “turned the investigation over to the Maryland State Police to protect the integrity of the investigation.” She declined to comment further.

Ethan McLeod
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Ethan McLeod

Associate Editor at Baltimore Fishbowl
Ethan is Baltimore Fishbowl's associate editor. He previously covered Baltimore-area news as a web producer for Fox45/WBFF-TV. Before arriving in Baltimore, he worked as an assistant editor for CQ Researcher in Washington D.C., and a reporter for Connection Newspapers in Northern Virginia. Look for his freelance bylines in Baltimore City Paper and DCist.
Ethan McLeod
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