WASHINGTON — A gunman killed a transit employee and wounded three others Wednesday morning in a standoff on a bus and later at a subway station in southeastern Washington, police said.
The employee was trying to protect a customer when he was killed, officials said. Bystanders later overpowered the gunman, who was taken into custody at the police station, police said.
The spate of violence began shortly after 9 a.m. when the attacker brandished a weapon in an altercation on a subway bus, then followed a passenger off the bus and shot him in the leg, according to police.
The gunman then walked down the escalator into the Potomac Avenue subway station and encountered a person buying a ticket, who he shot in the leg after another altercation, police said.
The attackers then walked towards the platform and confronted a woman, authorities said. A transit employee attempted to “intervene to protect this young lady,” Metropolitan Police Department Executive Assistant Commissioner Ashan M. Benedict said at a news conference.
“By doing this, he would be shot immediately by our shooters,” the chief said. The employee was later identified as Robert Cunningham, 64, a mechanic for Metro Electric.
“His heroism must be recognized here today,” Chief Benedict said.
The second transport worker was apparently able to de-escalate the situation, police said. At one point, the gunman boarded a train at the station but then disembarked and was overpowered by bystanders before being taken into custody, according to police.
In addition to Mr. Cunningham and two others were shot in the leg and another was wounded in the hand, authorities said.
Mayor Muriel Bowser said: “At this point we know very little about the shooter, other than that there was a man with a gun who wrought yet another tragedy in our city.”
Public transit crime has posed a problem for leaders of cities across the country during the pandemic, with high-profile incidents that could prevent commuters from returning to the trains, buses and subways they relied on before the coronavirus disrupted daily life .
“This is not a safety issue specific to the subway,” said Randy Clark, general manager of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, or Metro for short. “It’s an issue of gun violence in America, and I think it’s becoming more and more evident across America.”