Fatal stabbing suspects outside Ewell's Place in Fresno claim self-defense

August 28, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Branden Forrest, 25, and Samuel Whitmore, 30, are accused of stabbing 31-year-old Michael Tunnell, a well-known tattoo artist in the community.

The suspects were read their charges inside a Fresno County courtroom, but both men pleaded not guilty to a single count of murder. The charges are stemming from a stabbing outside Ewell's Place in Central Fresno two weeks ago.

Surveillance video obtained by Action News shows the victim known as "Tun Tun" trying to get away from one of the suspects who punched him during a disturbance in the parking lot.

The fight then moves to the corner where it continues to escalate and eventually ends when Michael Tunnell is stabbed and collapses on the sidewalk.

Over the weekend friends held a car wash to raise money for funeral expenses for the popular tattoo artist, and told us Tunnell was a talented man with a love for children and motorcycles, and would often appear at the annual tattoo expo in Downtown Fresno.

"If anyone knew Tun, they knew he was an amazing person," said the victim's friend, Linda Rendino. "He would give the shirt of his back for anyone. What happened to him was the most horrible thing that could happen to anyone."

But one of the defense attorneys painted a different picture. Pointing to a booking photo as possible proof that the suspects were acting in self-defense and it was Tunnell who was on the attack.

"It certainly is a significant wound, it's a big cut to his face," said Defense Attorney Scott Baly. "Looks like it was done from a knife and that's just from what I've seen."

Baly admits he was just assigned to the case and needs time to review the police reports.

"Homicide, murder charge is a very serious charge," said Baly. "It's the only count on the complaint."

The suspects are being held on more than a million dollars bail.

Friends and family of Tunnell are planning to hold a benefit concert at the Babylon, Saturday night.


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