Police: Fourth of July mass shooting plot targeting Dogwood Dell stopped with help of ‘hero citizen’

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Richmond police said a tip from a “hero citizen” led to an investigation that thwarted a mass shooting plot targeting the city’s Fourth of July celebration at Dogwood Dell.

Authorities arrested two men and seized assault rifles, a handgun and rounds of ammunition from a residence on Columbia Street after receiving an anonymous tip from someone who had overheard plans for a mass shooting in Richmond during the holiday.

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney and police Chief Gerald Smith addressed the alleged plot during a press conference Wednesday.

“Our officers quietly investigated and collaborated to stop what could have been a terrible day for the city of Richmond,” Stoney said. “No community is immune [from mass shootings].”

Dogwood Dell was identified as the target for the planned mass shooting after a citizen “overheard a conversation” about the plot and alerted police, Chief Smith said.

The tip led officers to a home where 52-year-old Julio Alvarado-Dubon and 38-year-old Rolman A. Balacarcel, of Richmond, had been living. When Alvarado-Dubon opened the door, officers saw a gun in plain sight and requested entry to the home. Police then went into Alvarado-Dubon’s room that he was renting, which is where officers found all of the guns and ammunition.

Chief Smith said authorities seized two AR-15 assault rifles, one handgun and more than 200 rounds of ammunition from a residence in the 3100 block of Columbia Street on July 1. A Richmond spokesperson later confirmed to 8News that a mix of 9mm and .223 caliber assault weapon ammunition was found.

Authorities seized two AR-15 assault rifles, one handgun and more than 200 rounds of ammunition from a residence in the 3100 block of Columbia Street on July 1 after receiving a tip from someone who had overheard plans for a mass shooting in Richmond during the holiday. (Photo Courtesy of the Richmond Police Department)

“Once inside that residence, they [police] saw evidence in plain view that corroborated the hero citizen’s statement that there was a concern,” Smith said.

Alvarado-Dubon was taken into custody after the guns were seized on July 1, and Chief Smith said officers were monitoring Balacarcel throughout the holiday until there was probable cause to arrest him. On July 5, Balacarcel was located in Charlottesville by Virginia State Police and was served with a warrant issued by the City of Richmond Police Department in Albemarle County.

State police said Balacarcel was taken into custody without incident and transported to the Charlottesville-Albemarle County Regional Jail. 

Police said both of the suspects are originally from Guatemala and were charged with possessing a firearm as non-citizens.

“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.”

After the press conference Wednesday, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin released a statement on the prevention of yet another U.S. massacre, on Twitter.

I want to thank and applaud the hero in Virginia that stopped a potential massacre by alerting our brave Richmond Police Department Officers that work tirelessly every day to protect our communities. Its a great reminder that if you see something, say something to your local PD.”

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin

Seven people were killed and several others were injured in a mass shooting at a Fourth of July parade in suburban Chicago following deadly mass shootings at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, and a supermarket in Buffalo.

Richmond Police Chief Gerald Smith, alongside Mayor Levar Stoney (far left) and City Council members, listens to a question during the city’s press conference on July 6, 2022. (8News photo)

Chief Smith added that authorities were also monitoring other sites of concern during the holiday, including The Diamond, but did not identify any as potential targets for the suspects. Richmond police confirmed that roughly 9,810 people attended The Diamond on the Fourth of July for the celebrations.

Smith said other agencies, including Homeland Security and the FBI, were critical for assisting in the investigation.

Alvarado-Dubon is in Richmond City Jail, Smith said Wednesday. Court documents show bond for Alvarado-Dubon was set for $15,000 but it’s not clear whether he was released.

Anyone with further information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 804-780-1000. The P3 Tips Crime Stoppers app for smartphones also may be used. All Crime Stoppers reporting methods are anonymous.

Correction: The spelling of Julio Alvarado-Dubon’s name has been updated. Previous versions of this story contained a misspelling provided to us by law enforcement.