A D.C. Metro worker is being hailed as a hero after he was killed trying to stop a gunman during a rampage at a train station Wednesday morning in which three other people were injured.
The employee, identified as 64-year-old mechanic Robert Cunningham, was fatally shot as he and another employee attempted to intervene in an altercation between a male individual brandishing a gun and a woman on the platform at the Potomac Avenue station in Washington, D.C., police said.
“His heroism has to be recognized here today,” Ashan Benedict, the executive assistant chief of police for the Metropolitan Police Department, said during a press conference with D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and others.
Investigators are still piecing together what transpired, including a motive, but Benedict told the media the gunman appeared to be “agitated” about something. Benedict said that police believe the gunman first shot someone in the leg on a Metrobus before shooting another person trying to purchase a farecard in the leg at the station.
On the platform, after Cunningham was shot, Benedict said the second employee appears to have succeeded in de-escalating the situation. The gunman got on and off a train, which did not move out of the station, before other people tackled him, Benedict said. Upon their arrival, police officers took the man into custody.
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Benedict said the wounded victims — three in total, including someone with an injured finger — were receiving treatment. Their injuries do not appear to be life-threatening. Benedict also called on witnesses to come forward to assist with the investigation.
The nation’s capital started the year with an alarming spike in crime. In a statement, Randy Clarke, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority general manager and CEO, called for an end to gun violence while also recognizing Cunningham’s sacrifice.
“Today, I feel profound sadness about the loss of our Metro family member, Robert Cunningham. We grieve for our employee, his family, and all who have been affected by this senseless tragedy,” he said. “I appreciate the outpouring of support Metro has received today. Gun violence must stop. Unfortunately, Metro is not immune to the violence that our country is experiencing right now. These senseless acts must be addressed together by our leaders and community. We will take time to process this loss and take care of our employees. We are all hurting and will continue to lean on each other for support.”
Metro said it lowered its flags to half-staff in remembrance of Cunningham.
Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) International President John Costa also praised Cunningham. “I want to express our deepest sympathy and heartfelt condolences to the family and the loved ones of our fallen hero brother, who was tragically shot to death trying to stop the shooter,” Costa said in a statement.
Citing other recent instances of violence involving transit centers and workers in Baltimore and D.C., ATU said it sent a letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg last week “urging DOT to act immediately to address the national transit worker safety crisis.”