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Police: Mass shooting on July 4 averted after tip

Richmond Police Chief Gerald Smith speaks during a press conference.
Richmond Police Chief Gerald Smith speaks during a Wednesday press conference, where he detailed a tip that allegedly precluded a shooting on July 4. (Photo: Patrick Larsen/VPM News)

The Richmond Police Department received a tip that helped prevent a mass shooting on July Fourth at Dogwood Dell, Police Chief Gerald Smith said at a Wednesday press conference at RPD headquarters.   

Smith referred to the person who called in the tip as a “hero citizen,” but declined to divulge their identity. The individual reportedly overheard the information and called the tip into the second precinct.   

“The success of this particular investigation can only be juxtaposed against the horrors in which the rest of the country has seen,” Smith said. “There is no telling how many lives this hero citizen … saved from one phone call.” 

The tip, which was called in on July 1, led to the arrest of two men.   

Julio Alvarado-Dubon was arrested on July 1 and is being held without bail in Richmond City Jail. Rolman A. Balacarcel was arrested in Albemarle County by Virginia State Police on July 5 and is being held without bail in Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail. Both were charged with possession of a firearm as a non-United States citizen.

Smith said police have not determined a motive for the alleged plot.  

When Alvarado-Dubon was arrested, officers seized two assault-style rifles, one handgun and more than 200 rounds of ammunition, Smith said. Richmond police partnered with the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI and Virginia State Police for the investigation.

According to RPD spokesperson Tracy Walker, Homeland Security is likely to take the lead on the investigation.  

Last week, the police department retracted a statement made during the summer protests of 2020 after police sprayed protesters with tear gas. In the initial statement from two years ago, the department claimed police were stopped by “violent” protesters, which caused them to use teargas. On Friday, the department apologized to “peaceful protesters.”

Smith and Walker declined Monday to comment on the retraction.

Two shootings took place in Richmond over the holiday weekend. One at the Fan location of City Dogs, which ended in the death of 36-year-old Kyle Stoner, and another outside Cyber Café in Jackson Ward early Monday morning.   

At the Monday press conference, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney said he’s working with police and a range of city departments to reduce gun violence. He also lauded the bipartisan gun control legislation that recently passed in the U.S. Congress — but wants to see state and federal lawmakers further limit access to firearms.   

“If members of Congress, both Democrats and Republican, want to pat themselves on the back and think they’ve done something, come to urban areas like Richmond on a day-to-day basis, weekend-to-weekend, and you will see that we need more," Stoney said.  

Both Smith and Stoney on Monday emphasized the importance of the “see something, say something” concept, urging members of the community to look out  for one another.  

“Public safety is not a responsibility of the police department,” Smith said. “It is a responsibility for us all.”  

VPM News intern Katharine DeRosa contributed to this report.

Patrick Larsen is VPM News' environment and energy reporter, and fill-in host.