RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — U.S. Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, a former Richmond mayor and a city resident, said “the community is owed some answers” about an alleged mass shooting plot that police claimed targeted a July Fourth event at Dogwood Dell.
The Richmond Police Department has faced increased scrutiny over its response to the alleged plan since a city prosecutor said there was no evidence pointing to any specific target.
After the city’s top prosecutor contradicted the police’s account, Richmond police chief Gerald Smith told reporters the department was “closing all discussion about the planned Fourth of July mass shooting.” On Friday, Sen. Kaine addressed the alleged plot at an event in Richmond.
“I’ve been following it probably like, you know, my neighbors have I get in the newspaper and reading it every day and I’m puzzled,” Kaine responded when asked if he’s been following the news about the alleged plan. “I’m puzzled by it. So I don’t have anything beyond I’m finding it confusing.”
When asked about the questions he had, Kaine said city officials didn’t have to put forward accusations of a mass shooting plot at Dogwood Dell but because they did he felt evidence showing such a plan should have been shared with the public.
“They could have just said we’ve arrested some people, but they put it on the table that we’ve arrested them and this was going to be a mass shooting incident,” he said Friday. “So having put that on the table, I do think the community is owed some answers about, well was that accurate or isn’t it.”
Richmond police said a tip from a citizen led to an investigation that thwarted plans for a mass shooting at the city’s event at Dogwood Dell. Two suspects, Rolman Balcarcel-Bavagas and Julio Alvarado-Dubon, were arrested and authorities seized two assault rifles and hundreds of rounds of ammunition, according to police.
Chief Smith claimed the department’s investigation pointed to Dogwood Dell as the target during a July 6 press conference, but city prosecutors told a circuit court judge on Aug. 3 that there was no evidence of a specific target.
“The Commonwealth’s evidence was that a tipster communicated to the police that he knew someone who has said that he was going to shoot up a large event on the Fourth of July,” Richmond’s Commonwealth Attorney Colette McEachin said in a statement. “No specific time was mentioned by the tipster. Neither Dogwood Dell, nor any other specific location, was ever mentioned by the tipster.”
City prosecutors dropped the initial charges against both men so federal prosecutors could pursue charges against them. Neither the city nor prosecutors in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia have filed charges connected to an alleged mass shooting plot, but additional charges could come.
Smith continued to face more questions after federal prosecutors took over, but said the department was not answering any more during a quarterly crime briefing on Aug. 8. This came after both he and Mayor Levar Stoney made national television appearances to discuss the investigation they said thwarted the alleged plot.
Alvarado-Dubon faces a federal charge of possessing a firearm while in the country illegally and Balcarcel-Bavagas has been indicted for allegedly re-entering the United States illegally, court records show. Court filings do not mention or share evidence of plans to commit a mass shooting.