Potomac Metro Station Shooting Leaves One Dead, Three Injured

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Officials identified this bus as the one exited by a passenger, who was then pursued and shot by the suspect in the Potomac Metro Station shootings, Feb. 1, 2023. E.O'Gorek/CCN

UPDATE: WMATA has identified the deceased employee as Robert Cunningham, who intervened on behalf of a customer today at Potomac Avenue Station and was a victim of senseless gun violence. Mr. Cunningham was 64 years old and a mechanic in the power department.

MPD has clarified that two others were shot. A third injury initially believed to be a gunshto wound was found to be a laceration.

Both Potomac Metro Station and all associated road closures were opened as of 4:30 Wednesday afternoon.

A WMATA employee was killed and two individuals were shot in a shooting that began shortly after 9 a.m. Wednesday on a M6 Metro Bus and ended at the Potomac Ave Metro Station (700 14th St. SE). The suspect, who has not yet been named, is in custody.

At a press conference on the scene, Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) officials said the motive was unclear and the shooting appeared to be random. The gun was recovered on the tracks.

The suspect pulled out a gun while a passenger on the bus and engaged, seemingly randomly, with passengers. MPD Executive Assistant Chief of Police Ashan Benedict said that when the bus stopped at Potomac Metro Station, the suspect followed one passenger off the bus and shot him in the leg.

The shooter then entered the Potomac Avenue Metro station and engaged with an individual in the process of purchasing a Metro card, shooting that person in the leg and, as recounted by Benedict, “brings him over the turnstile –again, we’re not sure of the intent of all this, going in,” before the injured individual broke free, Benedict recounted at a press conference on the scene.

Potomac Metro Station was closed off Wednesday for the investigation. E.O’Gorek/CCN

The shooter then approached and engaged with a woman on the train platform, Benedict continued. “There are two Metro employees that are watching what is happening. One of them attempts to intervene to protect this young lady. By doing so, he is immediately shot by our shooter,” Benedict said.

The employee, later identified as 64-year-old Robert Cunningham, was pronounced dead on the scene. “His heroism has to be recognized here today,” the MPD Assistant Chief added.

Cunningham was a mechanic in Metro’s department. In his remembrance, Metro has lowered its flags to half-staff during this time of grief.

After shooting Cunningham, shooter apparently got on and off a train, which remained stationary. A second Metro employee intervened and attempted to deescalate the situation and was evidently successful, Benedict said.

None of the additional shooting victims have yet been identified. Three people are at local hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries, two with leg wounds and one with what was described as a fragmentation injury to the hand.

Metro GM Randy Clark, MPD Assistant Chief Ashan Benedict and Mayor Muriel Bowser speak at a press conference following the shooting. Photo: E.O’Gorek/CCN.

Heroism

Benedict recognized the “heroism” of Metro employees for their efforts to impair the shooter, as well as that of residents on the platform.

Several people on the train tried to tackle the shooter. “Due to the heroic actions of our citizens, our community to disarm this shooter —I can’t put a price on that —I think they saved lives. And that is to be commended,” said Benedict, adding that it was terrible that their actions were necessary. The suspect is in custody. The gun was recovered on the tracks.

A witness to the events on the bus said the shooter referred to himself as a “kill monger” and appeared to be shooting random people inside the Metro station.

Police and Metro officials outside the Potomac Avenue Metro Station, Feb. 1, 2023.

A Need to Stop Gun Violence

DC Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) said she plans to work with the WMATA team to investigate the shooting. She emphasized the need for an end to gun violence in the District.

“We had a person with a gun who has created another tragedy in our city,” Bowser said.

WMATA GM Randy Clarke emphasized that WMATA’s services remain a safe mode of transportation and said he plans to ride the Metro later today.

“We have a gun violence problem in America and sometimes that comes into Metro, but this is not a Metro specific safety issue,” Clarke said. “It’s an America gun violence issue and I think that’s becoming increasingly clear.”

Ward 6 Council member Charles Allen (D) was on the scene. He said information about the shooter and what transpired was still coming in. “It sounds like we’ve got somebody who was in deep, deep crisis and who had easy access to a gun. And that is a horrible, lethal, dangerous combination,” Allen said.

Eastbound Pennsylvania Avenue SE lanes were closed at 15th Street SE for the investigation. E.O’Gorek/CCN

There are no easy answers, he noted. However, Allen said the incident demonstrated the need for the District to continue bolstering mental health supports and work in getting ghost guns off the streets.

Police ask witnesses to call 202-727-9099 or text any photos or videos anonymously at 50411.

A large area around the station was closed Wednesday afternoon. Westbound Pennsylvania Ave., SE was closed at 15th St. SE. All north-south diagonal lanes were closed at the 15th Street/Potomac Avenue/Pennsylvania Avenue SE intersection. Metro service on the OR/BLU/SILV line is not expected to resume until much later Wednesday, officials said on the scene, after the investigation is complete. Shuttle buses are running.

Sarah Payne is a general assignment reporter for Capital Community News. She can be reached at sarahp@hillrag.com. Elizabeth O’Gorek is a reporter for Capital Community News. Reach her at Liz@hillrag.com