RICHMOND, Va. -- One of two men accused of plotting to carry out a mass shooting in Richmond, Virginia, on the Fourth of July said he was beaten in jail despite being wrongfully accused.
"They just beat me, and they left me there. I couldn't defend myself and I tried to defend myself, but I couldn't," Rolman Alberto Balcarcel Ac said in an exclusive jailhouse interview with CBS 6 Problem Solver Laura French.
Balcarcel, who is from Guatemala and speaks Spanish, spoke through a translator.
Balcarcel described being assaulted inside the Richmond City Jail by fellow inmates, who he said, feared he was a terrorist who would injure their family members.
Two days after a gunman killed seven people and injured 48 others in a July Fourth celebration outside of Chicago in 2022, Richmond Police Chief Gerald Smith held a news conference announcing that his officers had prevented the same fate at Richmond’s Dogwood Dell Independence Day celebration with the arrests of non-U S citizens Julio Alvarado-Dubon and Rolman Alberto Balcarcel Ac.
"I am innocent of everything the police accuse me of and what they say about me because they are lies about me and of Julio,” said Balcarcel. “These are things that never, ever in our lives, had crossed our minds to do something like this, for which we have simply tried to be here in the United States, working harder and without harming anyone," he added.
"I am innocent of everything the police accuse me of... they are lies..."
Balcarcel has waited five months to say those words.
He spoke exclusively to the CBS 6 Problem Solvers in an attempt to fully clear his name and character. Both, he said, were destroyed last summer when a coworker, whom he considered a friend, called in a tip to police accusing him and his brother’s father-in-law of planning a mass shooting.
"The only thing I would ask him is why he did it?” Balcarcel said of the friend he said called in the tip.
Balcarcel says that the tipster had only been to their house once. He also said he called him at one point and offered to get him weapons.
“I told him I don't like that because I haven't liked them in my country because having a weapon is a great responsibility. If one is angry or something one can act,” he told him.
“So, there was no reason for him to think you were capable of killing anyone?” Asked French
“No,” Balcarcel responded.
CBS 6 asked Balcarcel if he knew of a motive for this.
"Well, the truth is, I don't understand it either because he was my friend at work," he said.
He added that his co-worker may have been upset that he was learning English and had plans of starting a staffing company.
"I have never liked weapons and then this, well, it's the accusation they made against me. Well, I feel that it was something serious, it was a great damage that they did to my life, and I feel like my life will not be the same,” he said.
It was a life that would change on July 1, 2022, when the Richmond Police Department showed up at his Columbia Road residence and took Alvarado-Dubon into custody and seized several of Alvarado-Dubon's guns.
"They arrested him, and they left me at home. It's what I don't understand," Balcarcel said.
“Police investigated everything, then Julio said that the weapons belonged to him,” Balcarcel explained. “They arrested him, and they left me at home. It's what I don't understand.”
“The policemen who arrived when they arrived at the house on July 1 the cops were good and all and they didn't treat us badly or anything.”
“The report says it was a photo of you, but you denied it,” French stated.
“Yes, because it was not. There were glasses and I have never worn glasses,” Balcarcel responded.
But four days later, police arrested Balcarcel at work in Charlottesville.
“The police arrived, and I never imagined that they would arrest me. I talked to them and everything and they arrested me, and I didn't know why. I thought the police realized that my work permit had expired and so that's why they sent me to arrest. I did not understand why,” Balcarcel explained.
Both men's names and faces would be shown in living rooms across the country.
CBS 6 showed Balcarcel media coverage during his time in jail.
“While that was happening, they were still wrongfully accusing me, which wasn’t true,” said Balcarcel.
"How difficult has this been for your family?” Problem Solver Investigative Reporter Laura French asked.
“Worse for my mother, because they are the ones that suffer the most,” said an emotional Balcarcel. “She has always worried, always asked about how I am.”
“I tell them I’m fine," he said. "I cannot say what happened to me in Richmond, that they beat me and all.”
It was soon revealed that Dogwood Dell was never named as a mass shooting target despite Chief Smith’s repeated assertions that it was targeted. There was no evidence to charge either man with anything related to a mass shooting.
Balcarcel appeared before Judge David Hicks on August 3, 2022.
Hicks asked the Commonwealth, "Does the Commonwealth have information that either of these individuals was involved in something that could potentially have affected Dogwood Dell on the Fourth of July, where I advised you that my children were present?”
The Commonwealth responded, "No."
Balcarcel said that was an emotional moment for him.
He is a father of four and he wanted Judge Hicks to know that he was not capable of such a crime.
"Well, I wasn't that kind of person who he was judging like, he wasn’t judging a terrorist who was going to commit a shooting," Balcarcel said.
However, he was guilty of entering the United States illegally for the third time.
He just served out a six-month sentence on a re-entry charge and was released from the Pamunkey jail on Dec. 19.
His status is unclear.
Court documents showed Balcarcel first fled his native Guatemala for his family’s safety because he had been “severely beaten” for rejecting offers to join organized crime.
“We as humans, we don’t ask to be born, but we also don’t want to die,” Balcarcel said.
“Are you afraid?” French asked.
"Well, sometimes I think that I would rather be in prison, better knowing that I’m alive at least. I have food and everything," Balcarcel said. "As long as it pleases God. I don't know what can happen outside like this. Yes, maybe I can try in my country well or something better, I only arrived to stay for a few days, and I'll stay.”
Before the world heard the name Roland Alberto Balcarcel Ac, he was making a living working long hours as an electrician.
" I am not a bad person for the United States."
"I ask God that they put in their hearts and their minds, to do what’s right. That they give me the opportunity to stay here since I am not a bad person for the United States, I am just a working man," he said.
Though he questioned how and why he got here, Balcarcel said the situation has strengthened his faith.
He said he did not hold grudges against anyone, but he does have a message for city leaders and police.
"May God bless you as he wishes and perhaps, as I have said, that as humans and as people we all make mistakes," he said. "The only thing I can tell you is that perhaps to be able to accuse someone who is undocumented to start, find out things better for the people because it is not fair that they just accuse one, just because one does not have the possibility of having the papers here."
Depend on CBS 6 News and WTVR.com for in-depth coverage of this important local story. Anyone with more information can email firstname.lastname@example.org to send a tip.
Watch for Problem Solvers Investigations Tuesdays on CBS 6 News at 11 p.m. Click here for more of our investigations or to submit a tip to the Problem Solvers.
Find unique, award-winning stories every day on CBS 6 News:
EAT IT, VIRGINIA restaurant news and interviews.