T.J. Cunningham, Former CU Buffaloes Player, Dies After Parking Dispute Shooting
AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) - T.J. "Anthony" Cunningham, a former CU Buffaloes player and an administrator in the Aurora Public Schools system, has died after police say his neighbor shot him. The Arapahoe County Sheriff's office says Cunningham, 46, got in a dispute with the shooter over a parking space.
The suspect was identified as Marcus Johnson, 31. Johnson has a criminal history that includes assault and a weapons possession charge.
Cunningham played cornerback and wide receiver at the University of Colorado from 1992 to 1995. He also went on to have a short professional career in the NFL with the Seattle Seahawks. He was Hinkley High School's assistant principal.
At approximately 9:20 a.m. Sunday morning, a passerby called 911 to say there had been a shooting at the athletic fields behind Eaglecrest High School.
"And then a few minutes later we got another call from the suspect. He said that he had shot his neighbor and had claimed that earlier he had been attacked by his neighbor," sheriff's spokeswoman Deborah Sherman said on Sunday.
The incident started as an ongoing dispute between Cunningham and Johnson over a parking spot in their neighborhood, Sherman said.
"The two neighbors who live right across from each other were arguing on text and they finally decided to settle the matter by coming here to Eaglecrest High School and to Thunder Ridge Middle School ... kind of in between."
At some point police say Johnson got a gun and shot Cunningham multiple times. He then called police to surrender and went home just a few blocks away.
"He came out of the house, said his gun was in the car and that's when we took the suspect into custody," said Sherman.
On Monday afternoon the sheriff's office tweeted that Johnson will face first degree murder charges in the case.
Friends reacted with sadness on social media on Monday.
"The community ... lost such a great person, such a great soul," close friend Thomas Major said about Cunningham.
Major spoke with CBS4 from out of state about the impact Cunningham had on those around him.
"You can honestly say that you never had a bad memory around T.J. His aura and his persona was constantly positive," Major said.
Albus Brooks, the Denver City Council president, said on Twitter that Cunningham was a friend of his. He said Cunningham, who was a graduate of Overland High School, was married with children.
Aurora Public Schools sent out a statement saying they will have extra counselors available to students and staff at the high school this week:
"We are deeply saddened to learn that one of our assistant principals, Anthony (TJ) Cunningham passed away earlier today. Our hearts are broken for Mr. Cunningham's family. Our thoughts and prayers are with them during this tragic time," they wrote.
Rick George, director of the University of Colorado Athletics Department, sent out the following statement:
"We were deeply shocked and saddened to learn of the death of T.J. Cunningham. He was a good family man and had a strong passion for working with young people as evidenced by serving as an assistant high school principal. He was also a good alum, an active alum, and took great pride in being a Colorado Buffalo. Our hearts go out to TJ's family on their tragic loss. We will miss him."
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