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Richmond Chief steadfast that Dogwood Dell was July 4 mass shooting target: 'Let me make sure I'm clear'

Posted at 4:06 PM, Aug 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-04 14:36:38-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Richmond Police Chief Gerald Smith remained steadfast Wednesday afternoon when asked if the fireworks celebration at Richmond's Dogwood Dell was in fact the intended target of an alleged mass shooting plot foiled by his officers.

The Richmond Commonwealth's Attorney's office indicated there was no evidence Dogwood Dell a target, during a court hearing earlier in the day,

"When asked, the Commonwealth's Attorney said they had no information to indicate Dogwood Dell [was the target]. [The Richmond Police] statement today did not mention Dogwood Dell. I guess what we're trying to find is, where did Dogwood Dell come from?" CBS 6 reporter Cameron Thompson asked the Richmond Police Chief.

"From the experience and knowledge that your police department has and dealing with situations every day, of studying what happens in mass shootings, mass casualty incidents, it comes from just your police department knowing what it's doing," Chief Smith replied. "And just the high probability of that would be it. It is Richmond. Fourth of July celebration. It's at the Dogwood Dell."

"So you stand by Dogwood Dell," Thompson asked. "That was the intended target?"

"Yes," Chief Smith answered. "Let me make sure I'm clear about that, okay? Have I not said that before and said that now? Taking in all circumstances and everything into account. Yes."

RPD and Mayor Stoney press conference

During a morning hearing for men accused of plotting the shooting, Richmond District Court Chief Judge David Hicks asked the Commonwealth if there was any evidence that showed a shooting was planned for Dogwood Dell. He asked because he said he would have to recuse himself if there was evidence because two of his sons were at Dogwood Dell on July 4 and he said it would be a conflict of interest if he proceeded with the case.

Richmond prosecutor Clinton Seal told Hicks there was no evidence pointing to Dogwood Dell as the location for the alleged plot.

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 a mass shooting at the Independence Day event at Dogwood Dell. They said a “hero citizen” tipped them off about this alleged plot.

Below is a summary of the course of events in this case leading up to Wednesday:

July 1, 2022

  • Richmond Police say they receive a tip from a "hero citizen" about a planned mass shooting on the Fourth of July
  • Julio Cesar Alvarado-Dubon allows Richmond officers into his home on Columbia Street
  • Alvarado-Dubon arrested after police find guns and ammunition
  • Balcarcel is in the same house but is allowed to leave

July 5, 2022

  • Balcarcel is arrested in the Charlottesville area

July 6, 2022

  • Alvarado-Dubon is granted bond
  • RPD Chief Gerald Smith and Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney hold news conference to announce the arrests, say that the men were planning to attack Dogwood Dell's Fourth of July celebration

July 8, 2022

  • Crime Insider sources tell CBS6 that RPD officers stationed at Dogwood Dell on the Fourth of July were unaware of a threat and that neighboring police departments were never contacted
  • Mayor Stoney said he did not learn of the alleged plot until July 5

July 11, 2022

  • Balcarcel appears in court and is denied bond
  • Alvarado-Dubon's bond is revoked

August 2, 2022

  • Federal charges filed against suspects, nothing regarding a mass shooting

August 3, 2022

  • Judge asks Richmond prosecutor if they have information that the suspects were planning a Fourth of July attack at Dogwood Dell. Prosecutor says they are not alleging that at this time
  • Local charges dropped at request of Richmond prosecutor
  • Chief Smith speaks at news conference, maintaining that Dogwood Dell was the target and that his officers prevented a mass shooting
  • Mayor Stoney thanks RPD for "removing threat from our community"

But both Alvarado-Dubon and Balcarcel 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.

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 Dogwood Dell, 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 Mayor Stoney's records, but the mayor's office would not release those communications as part of the mayor's "working papers" under Virginia Code.

Mayor Stoney did appear on national TV to discuss the alleged plot. That clip was used in a July 20 fundraising email for the One Richmond political action committee.

Stoney PAC.png
Email sent to the CBS 6 newsroom on July 20, 2022.

"I remain thankful to Chief Smith, to the hard-working men and women of the Richmond Police Department for the great work they did surrounding the incidents on July 4," Stoney said Wednesday afternoon. "I do understand that the case now will reside at the federal level and all the great investigative work that has been done will be handed over to the federal government and the process will play itself out from there."

During Wednesday's hearing, the Commonwealth moved to nolle prosse the charges against Alvarado-Dubon and Balcarcel as federal arrest warrants were issued since the men are citizens of Guatemala. Both men are being held by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

"I'm just going to be very blunt, to the point I've been watching the media. As a chief of police in Richmond, Virginia, it is my job to make sure that I can move Heaven and earth to prevent Hell from erupting in the City of Richmond as we saw [during mass shootings in] Buffalo, Uvalde, and Highland Park," Chief Smith said. "I would like to say that our detectives, our officers that day did an outstanding job. The questions about Dogwood Dell, you have an excellent police department that knows its job and knows what it's doing and took everything in all totality into circumstances into account and on all probability the target was Dogwood Dell."

Chief Smith said the officers involved in the investigation should be congratulated for their efforts.

"I think that the best thing that we could do for those officers who actually took in multiple guns instead of counting multiple bodies, those officers who actually took in hundreds of rounds of ammunition as opposed to caring for hundreds of victims who were shot, and locking up those two individuals and protecting the city as opposed to having to comfort families of men, women children out there. I think the best thing that we could say today is thank you for that."

This is a developing story, so anyone with more information can email newstips@wtvr.com to send a tip.

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