Richmond police say ‘hero citizen’ tipped off officers, helped prevent mass shooting on July 4th
Police in Richmond, Va., said they thwarted a mass shooting planned for July 4th after a “hero citizen” tipped them off on two suspects, leading to officers seizing three firearms and ammunition from a home ahead of Independence Day.
During a Wednesday afternoon press conference, Richmond Police Department Chief Gerald Smith said a person they are not identifying overhead a conversation about the planned mass shooting and reported the information to police on Friday, July 1.
Police quickly investigated the residence and saw “evidence in plain view” that corroborated what the witness reported, Smith added. Richmond officers were let into the home and seized two assault rifles, one handgun and 223 rounds of ammunition.
The police chief repeatedly said the “hero citizen” who tipped them off saved countless lives.
“One phone call saved numerous lives on the Fourth of July,” Smith said at the press conference. “The success of this particular investigation can only be juxtaposed against the horrors of which the rest of the country has seen. There is no telling how many lives this hero citizen has saved from one phone call.”
Officers, who also worked with the FBI on the case, arrested and charged Julio Alvarado-Dubon with being a non-U.S. citizen in possession of a firearm on Friday. A second suspect, Rolman Balacarcel, was surveilled by police throughout the holiday weekend and arrested and charged on the same count on Tuesday.
Both suspects, who were roommates, are being held without bond. Police said additional charges may be filed against the pair.
Police said they had evidence the suspects were planning to open fire at Richmond’s July 4th celebration at the Dogwood Dell amphitheatre and a city baseball game.
“This is where these cowards go,” Smith said. “Wherever we gather, this is where they want to be.”
The news comes after a deadly mass shooting in Highland Park, Ill., left seven people dead and dozens injured after a gunman opened fire during an Independence Day celebration in the Chicago suburb.
Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney (D) said mass shootings had become an “epidemic” nationwide, calling on the U.S. Congress to pass more than the bipartisan gun deal lawmakers passed into law last month.
“There is mayor after mayor across this country who are frustrated by the current state,” Stoney said. “We need more. If members of Congress — both Democrats and Republicans — want to pat themselves on the back and say they’ve done something, come to urban areas like Richmond on a day-to-day basis, weekend-to-weekend, and you’re going to see for yourself we need more.”