RICHMOND, Va. — U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) said he's "puzzled" and "confused" about conflicting information regarding an alleged July Fourth mass shooting plot Richmond Police claim to have stopped.
"I've been following it, probably like my neighbors have, like getting the newspaper and reading it every day, and I'm puzzled. I'm puzzled by it. I don't have anything beyond I'm finding it confusing," Sen. Kaine said Friday following an event to discuss the regional economy when asked byCBS 6's Cameron Thompson.
On July 6, Richmond Police Chief Gerald Smithheld a press conference to announce that officers arrested two Guatemalan men who a tipster said were planning to carry out a mass shooting at an Independence Day event. Officers said they then found multiple guns and hundreds of rounds of ammunition at their home.
Smith initially named Dogwood Dell as the target of the alleged planned attack, but prosecutors later revealed in courtthey had no evidence to support that claim. Smith has not made any evidence public, rather attributing the determination of a specific location to the investigative work of officers.
After the case was turned over to the U.S. Attorney's Office, which did not mention anything related to a mass shoot plot in court documents, Smith said he was done talkingabout the incident.
"I ended the discussion," Smith said Monday, despite many community members still demanding answers as to why a press conference was called in the first place and why the evidence has yet to be produced.
Kaine, a former mayor of Richmond, agreed with calls from residents for more information from police and city leaders.
"If there are facts suggesting that this really was a potential mass tragedy, those need to be put on the table," Kaine said. "City officials didn't have to put it on the table at the outset. They could have just said, 'we've arrested some people.' But they put it on the table that we've arrested them, and this was going to be a mass shooting incident."
He added, "I do think the community is owed some answers about well, was that accurate, or isn't it?"
While referencing the current debate over the warrant execution at Mar-a-Lago, Kaine said public officials must be careful about announcing conclusions too early.
"If you don't announce the conclusion, then you don't necessarily owe an explanation, but if you lead strong with 'this is what this is about,' then I think you kind of do owe people some information about it," Kaine said.
He continued, "Was there really evidence that this was going to be a mass shooting or was that an assumption maybe just because of the number of weapons that they found? I hope we get some answers about that."
In Mayor Levar Stoney's Office's most recent statement to CBS 6 on Wednesday, a spokesperson made no mention of a mass shooting plot. Rather, he referred to it as a "potential threat."
"He [Mayor Stoney] is grateful the Richmond Police Department acted swiftly on a tip to remove a potential threat from the community before any incident could take place."
Stoney's spokesperson added the mayor expects Richmond Police to keep the public informed about "issues of public safety."
Richmond Police Chief Gerald M. Smith issued the following statement to WTVR CBS 6 Friday afternoon.
"As the leader of the Richmond Police Department, I stand behind the work of the investigators, who working from a tip, were able to apprehend two individuals and stop an act of violence that was planned for July 4th.
"Last week, the Commonwealth Attorney also concluded, as reported by other outlets, that there was evidence for a mass shooting targeting 'a large event' and handed the case off to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
"As such, the case presently is in the federal justice system and I cannot provide further details than what has already been made available to the public or that could jeopardize this case.
"The Richmond Police Department remains committed to keeping our residents and visitors safe."
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