By DENISE LAVOIE and SARAH RANKIN, Associated Press
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) – Police in Richmond, Va., said Wednesday they thwarted a July 4 mass shooting after receiving a tip that led to the arrest of two men and the seizure of multiple firearms — 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. The caller said the attack was planned for the Dogwood Dell Amphitheater, where an annual fireworks display is held, Smith said.
“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, 52, was arrested July 1, the same day police received the tip, Smith said. He said police placed a second suspect, Rolman Alberto Balacarcel, 38, under surveillance from that day but initially had no probable reason to arrest him. He was arrested Tuesday in Albemarle County, near Charlottesville, and was being held in a local jail.
Police spokeswoman Tracy Walker said the two men were from Guatemala. Initial documents filed in Richmond General District Court indicate that Alvarado-Dubon and Balacarcel are not legally in the United States. The documents, which indicate that Alvarado-Dubon has an expired visa, contain no details of the alleged plot.
Court documents note that bail was set at $15,000 for Alvarado-Dubon on Wednesday, but it was unclear whether he had been released. Documents indicate 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, Jose Aponte, declined to comment Wednesday.
It was not immediately clear if Balacarcel had a lawyer who could speak on his behalf.
Smith said the two men lived together in a house in Richmond, 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.
“I want to thank and applaud the Virginia hero who stopped a potential massacre by alerting our brave officers at the Richmond Police Department who work tirelessly every day to protect our communities,” Gov. Glenn Youngkin said in a statement. a tweet. “It’s a great reminder that if you see something, tell your local PD something.”
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 in 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.”
Smith said the apparent plot was unrelated to another shooting that injured six people in Richmond in the early morning hours of July 4.
On 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 wounding 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.
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