Miami, Okla., pays tribute to fallen office. Contributed Photo.
Contributed Photo

Miami, Okla., pays tribute to fallen officer

MIAMI, OKLA. – Retired police officer Mark Wall often is transported back in time when he travels a mile stretch of highway in Miami, Okla. 

North Ninth Street was a roadway where Wall and his childhood best friend, B.J. Tunnell, rode their bicycles. Summer days started early for the boys in the 1960s as they explored the northwest part of Miami.

One day the mischievous boys got a police scanner.

“We would listen to the scanner, and when the police were called out, we would get on our bikes and ride to the scene and watch the police,” Wall said. “That’s how we got interested in police work.”

Between their own “police work,” the two hunted and fished together, as boys and still do. They even became officers together.

“We were the best man at each other’s weddings,” Wall said. “I even named my son after him.”

Today the well-worn path is a now popular highway, home to businesses, homes, a daycare and a splash pad. It was eventually renamed Broadway and later B.J. Tunnell Boulevard, after Wall’s childhood friend.

Miami Patrolman Tunnell, 27, was fatally shot serving a felony warrant at the Elms Motel in Miami on June 5, 1988.

“His photo hangs in my office to remind me every day what a great police officer he was,” Wall said of his childhood friend.

Wall, a retired Grove, Okla., police chief, still remembers the moment he got the telephone call about his lifelong friend’s shooting.

“It seems like only yesterday,” Wall said. “I was very blessed to have a friend like him.”

“B.J. Tunnell Boulevard runs through the heart of our community,” said Miami Communications Manager Melinda Stotts. “The life of B.J. Tunnell runs through the heart of so many of our citizens.”

Stotts said a tribute to Tunnell is on the city’s website.

“The community is mindful of B.J. Tunnell’s sacrifice, and we want our children’s children to know of the heroes that once were children themselves – just like them,” Stotts said.

Gary Anderson, former Miami Police Chief, was a young officer searching for Russell Wayne Haines to arrest him on a warrant out of Texas.

Haines, who had assaulted a Daisetta, Texas, police officer, had violated his probation on those charges.

Miami Police Patrolman B.J. Tunnell, 27, was shot in June 1988 at the Elms Hotel in Miami while attempting to arrest a man wanted on a felony warrant. Contributed Photo.
Miami Police Patrolman B.J. Tunnell, 27, was shot in June 1988 at the Elms Hotel in Miami while attempting to arrest a man wanted on a felony warrant. Contributed Photo.

According to the tribute and published reports, Anderson located Haines at the Elms Motel. He and Oba Edwards, the motel owner, went to Haines’ room and confronted him.

Anderson ordered Haines to place his hands behind his back. At first, Haines started to do as Anderson ordered but then hesitated, saying, “No, I ain’t going to. You’re going to have to shoot me.” Haines struck Anderson with a double-burner iron gate from a cook stove, and a struggle ensued, which quickly moved into the parking lot. Edwards then called the police for assistance.

Tunnell arrived at the scene and struck Haines with a flashlight. Haines grabbed Anderson’s revolver, which had come out of his holster in the fight, and shot Tunnell point-blank.

Fearing Haines would shoot Anderson, Edwards began firing at Haines with his own .32-caliber revolver. Haines returned fire twice, then began running. Anderson retrieved Tunnell’s service revolver and caught up with Haines, who had tripped and fallen in the motel courtyard. Haines had dropped the gun and attempted to grab it when Anderson shot him.

The community honored Tunnell with a memorial stone at B.J. Tunnell and Park Street. A vehicle accident in 2015 destroyed the memorial, but the community rededicated a second memorial a year later.

Tunnell was survived by his wife, Brooke.


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