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In alleged July 4th mass shooting plot, police say one thing, prosecutors say another

Quilter: 'I've never seen anything like this. It's like they don't want us to know'
2022 Fourth of July celebration at Dogwood Dell in Richmond, Virginia.
Posted at 6:32 PM, Aug 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-12 12:11:54-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Richmonders who live near Dogwood Dell said they were left with more questions than answers after conflicting information was released about the intended target of an alleged July 4th mass shoot plot.

As the shows go on at Dogwood Dell, Paige Quilter said she's felt mostly comfortable attending the performances in recent weeks but mentioned there's a lingering sense of fear.

“You still are looking around everywhere trying to figure out, ‘OK, is it still safe up here,'" Quilter said.

Her concerns stem from a July 6 press conference held by Richmond Police Chief Gerald Smith when he announced officers stopped an alleged mass shooting plot at the Dell's Independence Day celebration. Chief credited a "hero tipster" who reported the information to police which led to the arrests of Julio Alvardo-Dubon and Rolman A. Balcarcel.

“It brought on a lot of anxiety for a lot of people around here," Quilter said.

Immediately following the briefing, Quilter, as President of the Carillon Civic Association, asked her law enforcement and city partners how safety procedures would be enhanced for future events. But she never got answers.

“I’ve never seen anything like this. It's like they don't want us to know," Quilter said.

Her questions only grew when she learned Wednesday that Richmond's Commonwealth's Attorney's Office couldn't provide any evidence that would prove Dogwood Dell as the target of a planned attack.

“So we are clear, the Commonwealth is making, in open court, no allegation with regard to a specified location of Dogwood Dell on the 4th of July, 2022 as any potential target that either of these individuals (Alvardo-Dubon and Balcarcel) are being alleged to have planned and or plotted," Judge David Hicks said in court Wednesday.

However, hours later, Chief Smith doubled down on his stance.

“Do you stand by Dogwood Dell as the intended target," CBS 6 reporter Cameron Thompson asked.

“Yes. Let me make sure I’m clear about that, OK," Smith responded. "Have I not said that before and said that now?"

RELATED: Richmond Chief steadfast that Dogwood Dell was July 4 mass shooting target

Richmond Chief steadfast that Dogwood Dell was July 4 mass shooting target

Quilter said members of her organization started calling her with questions about the clashing information, and she couldn't make sense of it.

“Disappointment and confusion," Quilter said about her reaction to the news. “How do these justice systems not work in tandem? Where do people start listening? Where do we get our information from?”
“I think that's a legitimate question for people to ask," said CBS 6 legal analyst Todd Stone.

Stone explained a prosecutor might not bring forth evidence because stakes are higher in court than outside of court.

“In a courtroom, people are under oath, and they're sworn to tell the truth to a judge. The consequences -- you can be charged with perjury if you don't do that. So personally, I’d be inclined to believe something you hear in a courtroom," Stone said. "I would never put as much weight in a press conference or any statement outside of a courtroom."

He added it was odd that there were discrepancies between law enforcement and the prosecution.

"Usually they're on the same page, and usually, a prosecutor will just their job which is to put the evidence out that a police department comes up with and put it out to the judge," he said. "You've got the police saying, 'We've got this evidence,' and then the prosecutor saying, 'We don't have that evidence.' So there's a disconnect there. That is unusual."

RELATED: Commonwealth says there is no evidence of mass shooting plot at Dogwood Dell Independence Day event

2022 Fourth of July celebration at Dogwood Dell in Richmond, Virginia.
2022 Fourth of July celebration at Dogwood Dell in Richmond, Virginia.

Stone also questioned why specified evidence wasn't presented in the initial bond hearing. On July 5, Judge Hicks said prosecutors gave no evidence of a specified location for the alleged attack, so he granted secured bond to one of the suspects, Alvarado-Dubon. The next day, Hicks saw Dogwood Dell named by police on the news. Hicks said that caused him to reverse his decision in an "unprecedented" move.

Wednesday, Hicks said during that bond hearing, prosecutors' main argument to not grant bond was flight risk, meaning the suspect may flee before the next hearing. Stone wondered why the prosecution did not mention they were concerned he could be a danger to the public.

“There's no legitimate reason that I can think of where you would not want to introduce specific threats to the public at a bond hearing. That's the purpose of a bond hearing, you want to make sure the person is held," he said.

The state dropped the case, and it will not be handled by the federal court. Richmond's Commonwealth's Attorney's said her office asked the U.S. Attorney's Office to take over so that federal resources could be dedicated toward the case.

At the state level, both suspects were charged with possession of a firearm by a non-U.S. citizen, but federal prosecutors will only charge Alvarado-Dubon with a similar crime. Balcarcel only faces illegal re-entry.

"It's just a different prosecutor taking a look at the evidence and making a different decision," Stone said.

 Julio Alvardo-Dubon and Rolman Balacarcel
Julio Alvardo-Dubon and Rolman Balacarcel

If Alvarado-Dubon is found guilty of the gun charge, Stone said potential evidence related to a mass shooting could come out during sentencing.

"It would necessarily enhance the penalty range for the defendant if that evidence existed, so there will be a very thorough vetting about whether or not that evidence exists," Stone said.

Both suspects will make their first federal court appearance Friday.

Meanwhile, Quilter said she would continue to demand transparency from Richmond leaders.

"You owe the residents of this neighborhood, and the other neighborhoods surrounding this park, an explanation," she said. "The only way we've gotten as much information as we've gotten now is because of the press."

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