RICHMOND, Va. – Richmond Police Chief Gerald Smith credited a “hero citizen” for a tip that “saved numerous lives on the Fourth of July.”
The July 1 tip involved a man or men “threatening to do a mass shooting on or about July 4,” at the city’s fireworks celebration at Dogwood Dell in Richmond.
“A subject who I am referring to as a hero citizen picked up the phone,” Chief Smith said. “[They] overheard a conversation that there was a mass shooting being planned here in Richmond, Virginia, at our Fourth of July celebration at the Dell.
Chief Smith said officers were also focused on the Fourth of July celebration at the Diamond in Richmond.
“Their intent was to shoot up our July 4th celebration,” Smith said.
Both events were held despite the threats being investigated by police.
“We had a very robust plan. We were keeping an eye on it. I will not give the details out of what we were doing but I can tell you that the majority of our police department was working on the fourth,” Smith said . “We knew and we can see what’s happening around the country. It was just not only Dogwood Dell that we had a concern about. But we also had concerns about the Diamond and the baseball game as well, too. Let me be very blunt, this is where these cowards go. Wherever we gather, that’s where they want to be. “
Chief Smith was not able to provide additional details nor provide a motive for the mass shooting.
The tip led police to Julio Cesar Alvarado-Dubon and his Columbia Street home in South Richmond.
“Detectives conducted surveillance at an address related to the suspect and observed activity,” a police spokesperson said. “A knock and talk was conducted and the male was inside.”
Police said a July 1 search of the home yielded two rifles, a handgun, and 223 rounds of ammunition from the home.
“Unfortunately, the suspect did not have any weapons in his room, and did not make incriminating statements,” a police spokesperson wrote. “Homeland Security Investigations [HSI] was consulted about the weapons, and they advised the owner was prohibited from possessing any. He was taken to lock up and charged with Alien in possession of firearm. “
Police said they continued their investigation and monitored his roommate, Rolman Balacercel.
Balacercel was arrested on July 5 in Charlottesville.
Chief Smith said police did not have probable cause to arrest Balacercel initially, but officers were ready to move in if he attempted to act on the alleged plot.
Both men have only been charged with possessing a firearm while not being a citizen of the United States.
Neither man, according to police, was known to police prior to the current investigation.
The chief said investigators did not yet have details into the plans but had high praise for the person who called in the tip.
“It came from someone who did the right thing. It came from a hero. We owe several lives to that one person. That’s what I can say right now. They’re a hero,” Chief Smith said. “If you see something, say something. If you hear something, say something.”
Police said the July 4 situation was in no way tied to the shooting of six people on Broad Street in downtown Richmond on July 2, nor the fatal shooting of a man at a West Main Street restaurant.
This is a developing story, so anyone with more information can email firstname.lastname@example.org to send a tip.
Watch the complete news conference in the video player below.