Police: 4th of July mass shooting foiled in Virginia’s capital


Police in Richmond, Virginia said Wednesday they thwarted a planned July 4th mass shooting after receiving a tip that led to the arrest of two men and the seizure of several weapons, an announcement that came just two days after a deadly mass shooting on vacation in a Chicago suburb.

A “hero citizen” heard a conversation indicating an attack was being planned at an Independence Day celebration in the capital city and called police to report it, Police Chief Gerald Smith said at a news conference. The person he called said the attack was planned for the Dogwood Dell Amphitheater, where an annual fireworks show is held, Smith said.

“One phone call saved numerous lives on the 4th of July,” Smith said.

Police launched an investigation along with the US Department of Homeland Security and the FBI, which led to the arrest of two men accused of not being US citizens in possession of a firearm, Smith said. He said additional charges are possible.

Julio Alvarado-Dubon, 52, was arrested July 1, the same day police received the tip, Smith said. He said police placed a second suspect, Rolman Alberto Balcarcel, 38, under surveillance starting that day, but initially had no probable cause to arrest him. He was arrested Tuesday in Albemarle County, near Charlottesville, and was being held at a local jail.

Police spokeswoman Tracy Walker said both men are from Guatemala. Initial documents filed in the General District Court in Richmond say that both Alvarado-Dubon and Balacárcel are not in the United States legally. The documents, which say Alvarado-Dubon has an expired visa, do not include any details about the alleged plot.

Bail in the court papers note was set at $15,000 for Alvarado-Dubon on Wednesday, but it was unclear if he had been released. The documents say he has lived in the Richmond area for three years and works full time in the construction industry. He has a preliminary hearing scheduled in Richmond on August 2. Alvarado-Dubon’s attorney, José Aponte, declined to comment Wednesday.

It was not immediately clear if Balcárcel had a lawyer who could speak on his behalf.

Smith said the two men lived together in a Richmond home, where officers seized two assault rifles, a handgun and hundreds of pieces of ammunition that were on display. He said police have not determined a motive for the planned attack.

“I want to thank and applaud the Virginia hero who stopped a potential massacre by alerting our brave Richmond Police Department officers who work tirelessly every day to protect our communities,” Governor Glenn Youngkin said in a tweet. “It’s a great reminder that if you see something, tell your local police.”

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney, who joined the news conference along with members of the city council, denounced what he called an epidemic of gun violence across the country.

“Whether you’re at home on your cul-de-sac, in your neighborhood, in a park, or at a parade, dining out, you have to keep your head in a spin,” Stoney said. “And that’s not the country that I know I want to live in…but those are the facts of the matter right now.”

Smith said the apparent plot was not related to another shooting that wounded six people in Richmond in the early morning hours of July 4.

The same day, a gunman opened fire from a roof during a July 4 parade in the affluent Chicago suburb of Highland Park, killing seven people and injuring more than three dozen.

Robert E. Crimo III was charged with seven counts of murder on Tuesday. The shooting sent hundreds of people fleeing in terror and sparked an hour-long manhunt. Authorities have yet to identify a motive in that shooting.

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