RICHMOND, Va. — The Richmond Commonwealth's Attorney Office said there is no evidence pointing to Dogwood Dell as the planned location for an alleged mass shooting plot on the Fourth of July.
The admission came during a court appearance on Wednesday for the two men accused by Richmond Police of being behind the mass shooting plot.
Richmond District Court Chief Judge David M. Hicks asked a prosecutor with Richmond's Commonwealth's Attorney's Office if there was any evidence that shows it was planned for Dogwood Dell because he would have to recuse himself if there was.
Hicks said that would be because two of his three sons were at the Dogwood Dell event that day and it would be a conflict of interest if he proceeded.
Hicks also cited "judicial ethics" as a reason for requesting the clarification.
"At the very least, that disclosure is necessary by judicial ethics and constitutional considerations," Hicks said.
But prosecutor Clinton Seal told Hicks there was no evidence pointing to Dogwood Dell as the location for the alleged plot.
“Does the Commonwealth have information that either of these individuals were involved in something that could potentially have affected Dogwood Dell on the Fourth of July, where I advised you that my children were present? Because I need to know that before I can determine whether I can hear anything else on this matter. What would be your statement to that Mr. Seal," Hicks asked.
"No," Seal responded.
"No?" Hicks asked.
"I don’t," Seal said.
"You don’t… what?" Hicks asked.
"Have any information that would lead the Commonwealth to believe Your Honor has a conflict," Seal said.
During a July 6 news conference, Richmond Police claimed 52-year-old Julio Alvarado-Dubon and 38-year-old Rolman “Chapin” Balcarcel Ac were planning to shoot up the Independence Day event at Dogwood Dell. They said a “hero citizen” tipped them off about this alleged plot.
But both Alvarado-Dubon and Balcarcel Ac were only charged with possessing firearms when they are not U.S. citizens — nothing related to planning a mass shooting or any type of attack.
When Alvarado-Dubon was arraigned in Richmond on the morning of July 6, the same day of the police presser attended by Mayor Levar Stoney and several City Council Members, Hicks had granted him a secured bond because the evidence presented to him was that there was a potential for shooting in an unspecified location. There was no mention of a mass shooting plot at Dogwood Dell.
However, Hicks said when he went home that night, he saw on "pretty much every media outlet" that Alvarado-Dubon was allegedly involved in this mass shooting plot with Dogwood Dell named as the intended target. Therefore, he reversed his bond decision in an "unprecedented" and "unusual" move for him.
After Wednesday's hearing, Seal declined to comment.
Defense attorney for Balcarcel, Samuel Simpson, said he still doesn't know why police publicly named Dogwood Dell.
“The media has done a pretty good job of asking that question a lot. We haven’t gotten clarification on that. I think it’s from the content of the tip they got, but they haven’t been forthcoming about who the tipster is," Simpson said. "I really don't know where they got Dogwood Dell from."
Dogwood Dell was not specifically named in the search warrant affidavit, and Crime Insider sources told CBS 6 that the alleged threat was vague.
Sources also told CBS 6 that the Richmond Police officers who worked on July 4, including officers stationed at the Dogwood Dell event, were not made aware of any threat.
CBS 6 submitted several Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to various city officials to try to learn more information about the plot, but the city replied that no such records existed for certain high-level city officials.
However, the city admitted that emails and text messages CBS 6 requested do exist in Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney and his press secretary, Jim Nolan's, records, but the mayor's office would not release those communications as part of the mayor's "working papers" under Virginia Code.
As for Alvarado-Dubon and Balcarcel Ac, the Commonwealth moved to nolle prosse their charges against them as federal arrest warrants have now been issued since they are citizens of Guatemala. Both men are being held by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
In a statement released after the hearing, Richmond Police indicated it stood behind its investigation into the alleged July 4 mass shooting plot.
"Chief Gerald Smith stands behind the investigative work done by Richmond Police Detectives to stop a mass shooting planned for July 4," the statement read. "Following up on a tip from a concerned individual who heard a plot of a mass shooting planned for July 4th the Richmond Police Department began an exhaustive investigation to determine its validity. Based on the initial information and subsequent investigation, investigators recovered firearms and several hundred rounds of ammunition from the suspect's residence. Today, we have been informed that based on the evidence presented, the case will go Federal and is now in the hands of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. As the case moves forward, we will learn more about what charges will be pursued federally."
Colette McEachin, Richmond's Commonwealth's Attorney, shared the following statement with CBS6 on Wednesday evening.
The Commonwealth's evidence was that a tipster communicated to the police that he knew someone who has said that he was going to shoot up a large event on the Fourth of July. No specific time was mentioned by the tipster. Neither Dogwood Dell, nor any other specific location, was ever mentioned by the tipster.
My office asked the U. S. Attorney's Office to "adopt the case" so that federal resources could be directed at the case, given the seriousness of the allegations, and both defendants will be prosecuted at the federal level.
This is a developing story, so anyone with more information can email firstname.lastname@example.org to send a tip.