RICHMOND, Va. – Police in Richmond, Va., said Wednesday they thwarted a planned July 4 mass shooting after receiving a tip that led to the arrest of two men and the seizure of multiple weapons on fire – an announcement that came just two days after a deadly holiday mass shooting in a Chicago suburb.
A ‘citizen hero’ overheard a conversation indicating an attack was planned during an Independence Day celebration in the capital and called the police to report it, police chief Gerald Smith said during of a press conference. Smith said the caller said the attack was planned for the Dogwood Dell Amphitheater, where an annual fireworks display is held.
“One phone call saved many lives on July 4,” Smith said.
Police opened an investigation with the US Department of Homeland Security and the FBI, which led to the arrest of two men accused of being non-US citizens in possession of a firearm, Smith said. He said that additional charges are possible.
Julio Alvarado-Dubon was arrested July 1, the same day police received the tip, Smith said. He said police placed a second suspect, Rolman Alberto Balacarcel, under surveillance from that day but initially had no probable reason to arrest him. He was arrested Tuesday in Albemarle County, near Charlottesville. Police spokeswoman Tracy Walker said the two men were from Guatemala.
Smith said the two men lived together at the Richmond residence, where officers seized two assault rifles, a handgun and hundreds of cartridges that were in plain view. He said police had not determined the motive for the planned attack.
Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney, who joined the press conference 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, or in your neighborhood, or in a park, or at a parade, at a restaurant — you have to keep your head on a pivot,” Stoney said. “And that’s not the country I know I want to live in…but those are the facts of the matter right now.”
Alvarado-Dubon’s attorney, Jose Aponte, declined to comment Wednesday. Alvarado-Dubon has a preliminary hearing scheduled in Richmond on August 2.
Online records showed Balacarcel was being held in a local jail. It was not immediately clear if he had an attorney who could speak on his behalf.
The seemingly thwarted plot was planned the same day a gunman opened fire from a rooftop 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 fleeing in fear and sparked an hour-long manhunt. Authorities have yet to identify a motive in the shooting.