A Metro mechanic is dead and three other people are injured after a gunman opened fire at Potomac Avenue station in Southeast D.C. early Wednesday.
D.C. police arrested Isaiah Trotman, 31, of Southeast D.C., in connection to the shooting, according to a news release. Trotman is charged with first-degree murder while armed, kidnapping while armed and assault with a dangerous weapon (gun).
What D.C. police Executive Assistant Chief Ashan Benedict termed a “series of individual events,” began when the suspect brandished a gun while engaging with passengers on a Metrobus. Detectives said they believe the gunman followed one of the riders off the bus and shot them in the leg before entering the station.
“He’s walking around, brandishing a firearm, and just randomly engaging people in conversation, he’s clearly agitated about something,” Benedict said, addressing media on Wednesday morning.
After shooting a second person in the leg at a fare machine, the gunman reached the platform and confronted a woman. Witnessing this, Benedict said two Metro employees attempted to intervene — one of whom was shot and killed.
In a news release Wednesday afternoon, Metro named the slain worker as 64-year-old Robert Cunningham, employed as a mechanic in the system’s power department.
“On behalf of the Metro board, words cannot express how saddened we are to learn about the death of Mr. Cunningham,” Metro Board of Directors Chair Paul Smedberg said. “We understand that the employee acted with extreme bravery to help a customer who was being threatened by the shooter.”
The suspected shooter then attempted to enter a train and was tackled by passengers before being taken into custody. In all, two people were being treated for leg wounds after Wednesday’s events, with a third victim suffering an injured finger.
Joining Benedict and Mayor Muriel Bowser at a news briefing, Metro General Manager Randy Clarke called it a “brutal day” for the mass transit provider and said he’d spoken to Cunningham’s colleagues on site.
“To think that someone came in today, doing their job, then tried to intervene and protect another person that lives here and lost their life is really sad,” Clarke said. “I just hope that we can all reflect on that and give thanks to the people that work so hard for us in public service every day.”
Police were still trying to determine a motive for the chain of events.
“We don’t know a lot about this shooter at this moment, other than we had a person with a gun who’s created yet another tragedy in our city,” Bowser told media. “We will work hand-in-hand with Metro to complete this investigation.”
Potomac Avenue station reopened to commuters around 4 p.m. following a police investigation.
In a tweet early Thursday morning, Clarke said he spoke to a group of Metro employees who worked with Cunningham. He called for riders to “show patience and grace” to Metro staff as “we mourn and recover.
I just left meeting with a group of @wmata team members, many of whom worked with our hero colleague Mr. Cunningham. Their care for each other will get us through this tragedy. A request to our customers, please show patience and grace to our team as we mourn & recover. Thx you🙏
— Randy Clarke (@wmataGM) February 2, 2023
Mary Whelan, one of Cunningham’s longtime neighbors, told WTOP news partner NBC Washington that she was devastated by the news of his death, but not surprised to hear that he died trying to save the lives of others.
“I see [Cunningham] come and go everyday to work. Everyday he pulls in with a truck. And to think that he left today and he didn’t come back, that he was doing something for another human being … He was helping people. He didn’t have to do that.”
Neighbor Eleanor Adcock said Cunningham “looked out for his family and he looked out for the neighborhood … Obviously, he looked out for strangers, too.”
WTOP’s John Domen contributed to this report.