WASHINGTON (7News) — Already hailed a hero by police, Metro employee Robert Cunningham, 64, is also being remembered by the community for his actions Wednesday morning.
Cunningham was trying to subdue a man on the platform of the Potomac Avenue Metro Station. According to police, the gunman had already shot two people, and Cunningham was trying to stop him while he was in an altercation with a woman on the platform.
That's when police said 31-year-old Isaiah Trotman, of Southeast, D.C. shot and killed Cunningham. Trotman was charged with first degree murder Wednesday night, MPD said.
READ MORE: Metro employee killed, 3 others hurt after shooting at Potomac Avenue station: Police
Mary Whalen is one of Cunningham's neighbors and said she has known him for more than 30 years. She said she knew him as Bob, and she is not surprised by his heroics.
“I think he was the kind of person - obviously now we know - that would stick up for somebody that needed help,” Whalen said. "I wasn’t surprised at all he would do that. He was doing his job, which was to tell that gentleman, ‘You cannot harass this lady. You can’t pull guns out. We don’t do this.’ I don’t think he gave it one second of thought that it could mean his life.”
However, the fond memories of Cunningham's character are cut by the tragedy.
Whalen said she remembers greeting him when he left and arrived back from work, but now she won't get to do that anymore.
"Just kind of numb for a little bit. You just kind of sit there and take it all in this is somebody I can remember pulling in each day from work," Whalen said. "Of course, we’re going to be here for the family if there’s anything we can do. I’m still in shock about it. I still can’t quite put my mind around it that he's not coming home tonight."
Whalen said Cunningham loved working for Metro. However, she said he had even more pride in his family.
“He was a really good family man. He had, I believe, four children, and he was very proud of them. He and I had many conversations about the children,” Whalen said. "My conversations more with him were related to the children and his family, and what they might be doing or not doing, and his dog."
READ ALSO: Transit Union blasts Metro for lack of employee protection following recent shootings
Cunningham was not the only person trying to stop the gunman.
Timour Skerynnikov said he tackled the shooter after he killed Cunningham and got into a train.
"He proceeded walking around the car and saying that he already shot two people, and he’s going to shoot more. At this point, I looked out the window of the car and I saw Mr. Cunningham being down on the platform," Skerynnikov said. "At this point, I was very worried about my life because it sounded like the perpetrator was going to live up to his words. I thought it was an active shooter situation."
At this point, Skerynnikov said his survival instincts kicked in. However, he said is also thinking about Cunningham's family.
“First I was scared when he said he shot two people. I really was frightened because at some point he looked at me and pointed the gun. I tried not to look at him,” Skerynnikov said. "He wasn’t there to negotiate because [Mr. Cunningham] was right in front of me, 15 feet away. I could see him. My sincere condolences to his family because it’s just a terrible way to go."
Whalen said it is more important people know who Cunningham is.
“He’s a hero. He’s a hero because he came forward, and that’s what heroes do," Whalen said. "They don’t think of themselves first. They put other people first.”
A GoFundMe has been made for Cunningham's family after his heroic efforts. If you would like to donate, you can follow this link.