A brave mechanic who worked for the Washington Metro Transit Authority died a hero's death this week after he intervened to help a woman who was being attacked by an armed suspect who had already shot two others.
Just after 9:15 a.m. on Wednesday morning, police in Washington, D.C., received a call about an "agitated" man who was "brandishing" a handgun on a city bus. According to a police report, Isaiah Trotman, 31, had shouted, "I'm the killmonger" before engaging in an altercation with a male bus passenger. The two exited the bus, at which time, Trotman allegedly shot the man in the legs before dashing down an escalator toward a Metro train station at Potomac Avenue.
As he neared the train station, Trotman allegedly encountered an adult male attempting to purchase a ticket. Trotman then attacked the man and shot him in the leg as well, police claimed.
Once on the train platform, Trotman reportedly "pointed the handgun at a female" and initiated a "verbal exchange" with her. Reports indicate that Trotman continued to hold the woman at gunpoint when 64-year-old Robert Cunningham, who worked in the WMTA power department, stepped in to shield the woman from harm.
It would be the last thing Cunningham would ever do.
According to reports, a single shot struck Cunningham in the head, and he died at the scene. Another WMTA employee then attempted to intervene, prompting the suspect to enter "an occupied Metro rail car," where passengers quickly tackled and disarmed him before he could fire off another round.
Trotman was soon afterwards arrested and charged with first-degree murder while armed, kidnapping while armed, and assault with a dangerous weapon. In all, he allegedly shot three people during the rampage. The first two shooting victims sustained non-life-threatening injuries, and another man suffered a laceration to the hand and is expected to make a full recovery.
But the shot Cunningham sustained cost him his life, and friends, co-workers, and local officials have come forward to praise him for his bravery.
"On behalf of the Metro Board, words cannot express how saddened we are to learn about the death of Mr. Cunningham," said a statement from WMTA board chairman Paul C. Smedberg. "We understand that the employee acted with extreme bravery to help a customer who was being threatened by the shooter. To the family of the Metro employee, please accept our sincerest condolences. The Board is working with management to support the Metro family."
"Today, I feel profound sadness about the loss of our Metro family member, Robert Cunningham," added a statement from WMTA General Manager and Chief Executive Officer Randy Clarke. "We grieve for our employee, his family, and all who have been affected by this senseless tragedy. I appreciate the outpouring of support Metro has received today."
WMTA lowered all flags to half-mast in honor of Cunningham.
"He’s a hero," Mary Whalen insisted of "Bob," whom she described as a neighbor and friend. "He’s a hero because he came forward, and that’s what heroes do. They don’t think of themselves first. They put other people first."
Though most public statements have focused on Cunningham's heroism, many local officials have also blamed "gun violence" for the crime.
"Gun violence must stop," Clarke added. "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."
"We’re focused on how we get guns out of our city," D.C. Mayor Muriel Bower stated. "We know we have guns that are creating tragedies in our city and our nation."
Trotman, who is originally from D.C., has no prior criminal record there or in nearby Maryland. However, he did recently plead guilty to a drug charge in Pennsylvania and was scheduled to be sentenced for that offense in April.
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