The man charged with fatally shooting a Metro employee and wounding two other people in a rampage that “terrorized” riders at the Potomac Avenue Metro station last week will stay behind bars as the case against him continues.
D.C. Superior Court Magistrate Judge Lloyd Nolan ordered 31-year-old Isaiah Trotman held without bond Tuesday, nearly a week after authorities said he fatally shot Robert Cunningham, 64, when the Metro mechanic tried to wrestle the gun away from him during the shooting spree.
Charging documents in the case lay out the series of events leading up to the gunfire, detail Cunningham’s heroism, and the bravery of a Metro passenger — who, police said, ultimately snatched the gun away from Trotman and tossed it across the tracks.
Chain of events
All told, the documents reveal Trotman opened fired three times in five minutes.
The incident began just before 9:10 a.m. on Feb. 1 when, the documents say, Trotman boarded an M6 bus in Southeast D.C. heading toward downtown, and began accosting another bus passenger who was on the phone.
The man told police Trotman pulled out a gun, pointed it at him and said, “Look me in the face, I’m a prophet. You are going to die with me today,” according to the documents.
As the bus approached the Potomac Avenue Metro station, the passenger tried to run off the bus. Trotman fired a volley of rounds at the man, who didn’t realize he had been struck until he jumped in another bus, according to the documents.
Once inside the Metro station, Trotman approached a man loading his SmarTrip card at a fare machine just before 9:20 a.m., held a gun again the man’s leg and shot him, then dragged him through the turnstile down onto the platform level.
Down on the platform level, the documents said, Trotman accosted a woman on the phone, threatening to shoot her and saying, “I am god,” and “Don’t f—ing bat your eyelashes at me.”
At that point, just two minutes later, Cunningham, in a yellow safety vest, approached and tried to subdue Trotman.
Metro officials have previously hailed Cunningham as a hero for his attempts to subdue the shooter. Video footage from inside the station showed Cunningham approaching the shooter from behind with his right forearm over Trotman’s shoulder in an apparent chokehold, when Trotman opened fire.
The documents said Trotman then stomped on Cunningham’s body and said, “I’m a killer and this is what I do.”
In the meantime, a Silver Line train had pulled into the station. When the doors opened, Trotman forced the man he had shot in the leg into the car with him, according to the documents. Several other passengers were in the car, and Trotman ordered them not to move. He began pacing and ranting.
In another astounding act of heroism, a woman on the train, identified by WTOP as Shante Trumpet, told investigators that when she saw Trotman place the gun on the seat next to him, she grabbed the gun from the seat and tried to run off the train.
Before she could make it off the train, the alleged gunman tackled her. She said she slid the gun across the floor of the train car and when another man pulled Trotman off her, she got up, retrieved the gun, ran off the train and hurled the gun across the platform and over a stopped Metro train on the opposite side of the tracks.
When police later retrieved the gun from the tracks, it still had one round loaded in the chamber.
Past evidence of mental health struggles
In D.C. Superior Court on Tuesday on a charge of felony murder while armed, Trotman’s attorney Joseph Yarbough asked the judge to release Trotman from custody and into home confinement, noting he is a 2015 graduate of Auburn University with dual degrees in finance and business, and served for eight or nine years in the Air National Guard.
Since graduating, Trotman has worked in the IT field, his lawyer said, owns a home and has “strong family support.”
While Trotman does not have any prior convictions for violent crimes, Assistant U.S. Attorney for D.C. Michelle Jackson told the judge Trotman pleaded guilty on Jan. 12 in a Pennsylvania case to manufacturing, delivering and possession with intent to manufacture or deliver a controlled substance and is awaiting sentencing in that case.
The defense attorney also raised questions about the future of the case, suggesting prosecutors might have difficulty proving Trotman “was able to conform his conduct to the law” or that he knew what he was doing was wrong.
Court document say a person called police and asked them to check on Trotman last month, saying he had stopped showing up for a behavioral health disorder program and had previously had a “psychotic break.”
The judge ordered Trotman held, citing the safety of the community. In addition to the people he’s accused of shooting, “I’m not sure how many others were terrorized by having to witness this incident.”
Trotman is due back in court Feb. 16.
WTOP’s Megan Cloherty contributed to this report.