Former NFL player Anthony “T.J.” Cunningham was killed in a dispute over a parking spot Sunday morning, the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office announced Monday.
Cunningham, a former University of Colorado – Boulder standout who went on to be drafted as a defensive back by the Seattle Seahawks in the 6th round of the 1996 NFL Draft, was shot by his neighbor, police said according to The Denver Channel.
Cunningham, 46, played receiver and running back in college before appearing in nine games for the Seahawks in his lone NFL season. He was the assistant principal for Hinkley High School at the time of his death.
Police said the neighbor who shot Cunningham is Marcus Johnson, 31, who faces a charge of first-degree murder.
TJ Cunningham Went to ‘Box It Out’ With Marcus Johnson Over Parking Dispute
Cunningham met up with Johnson on Sunday morning to “box it out” over a parking spot before Johnson shot him, according to a police affidavit reported by The Denver Channel.
The shooting took place in the parking lot of Eaglecrest High School at around 9 am.
Deputies responded at around 9:20 am after a report that a man had been shot. As the deputies were en route, Johnson also called 911 to report he had shot his neighbor. He told police that his gun was inside his car outside of his home.
Neighbors told police that the two had long been involved in a dispute over a parking space in front of their homes.
Police said that rather than “box it out,” Johnson pulled out a gun and fired three shots at Cunningham, hitting him in the head and chest. Cunningham was pronounced dead the next day.
Johnson is being held without bond.
Former Teammates Remember Cunningham as a ‘Great Person With a Big Heart’
Mike Pritchard, who played for Colorado University and was in Seahawks training camp with Cunningham, told The Denver Channel that he was in “shock” over the news.
“I am having a hard time believing it. He would greet me as his big brother and tell me that over the years. He told me how he was certainly inspired to go to CU after watching our teams at that time,” Pritchard told the outlet. “We were in Seattle Seahawks training camp together, so I got a chance to get to know him better then. At CU, I would see him all the time. He was at every home game.”
Former college teammate Vance Joseph, who now serves as the defensive coordinator for the Arizona Cardinals, said he too was shocked that Cunningham was gunned down.
“He was always a great person, a smart person. He got along with everyone. He was never a troublemaker,” Joseph said. “I am shocked that this came to his doorstep. He was a great person with a big heart. Anyone who needed help in life, he was always there for them.”
University of Colorado Athletic Director Rick George issued a statement Monday:
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.
Aurora Public Schools also issued a statement:
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.
We will have additional counselors available at Hinkley High School throughout the week for students and staff who need additional support. We ask everyone to please keep Mr. Cunningham’s family in your thoughts.
Friends of the Cunningham family have set up a GoFundMe account to help raise money for Cunningham’s family.
“TJ’s legacy is beyond words and he has left behind a wife and five beautiful children who depended on him as a husband, father and primary provider,” the page says. “TJ always stood up for what was right and looked out for people who could not speak up for themselves. It’s not a coincidence that his career path led to helping children through education as the Assistant Principal at Hinkley High School. His warm presence and generous spirit has profoundly impacted the lives of countless relatives, friends, colleagues & kids.”