May 17, 2024 - News

Records show no evidence Dogwood Dell was a mass shooting target

Photo illustration of a Richmond Police cruiser with lines radiating from it.

Photo illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios. Photo: Ryan M. Kelley/AFP via Getty Images

New records indicate Richmond police did not have any evidence that Dogwood Dell was the target of a thwarted mass shooting plot in 2022, nor did they find a gun belonging to one of the men charged with possessing one, WTVR's Tyler Layne reports.

Why it matters: Police publicly accused two men with an alleged planned shooting they were never charged with. One has likely been deported and another is serving 16 months in jail on federal charges stemming from his arrest in connection with a plot it seems never happened.

Catch up quick: On July 6, 2022, then-Richmond Police Chief Gerald Smith and Mayor Levar Stoney called a press conference announcing a foiled mass shooting plot targeting the city's Fourth of July celebration at Dogwood Dell.

  • They also made appearances on national news networks celebrating the "hero citizen" who phoned in the tip and RPD's swift work arresting two suspects — Julio Alvarado-Dubon and Rolman Balcarcel, undocumented men from Guatemala.
  • RPD's narrative quickly unraveled, though. By the end of summer, a city prosecutor said there was no evidence that Dogwood Dell was the target; local gun possession charges against each man were dropped; and internal records suggested police were uncertain whether a shooting was even planned. Smith resigned that fall.

The latest... WTVR obtained the complete criminal investigative files through a records request. The records showed:

  • The tip was called in by Balcarcel's coworker, who told police Balcarcel was in possession of multiple guns and was "planning on shooting up a large gathering event on July 4." "No specification on what time or location" was given.
  • RPD stopped by Balcarcel's home and his roommate, Alvarado-Dubon, answered. Alvarado-Dubon consented to a search, and police found Alvarado-Dubon in possession of guns. But officers didn't find any weapons belonging to Balcarcel.
  • "Unfortunately, the suspect did not have any weapons in his room and did not make incriminating statements," the report read.

Still, both men were arrested and charged with possessing guns while not being a U.S. citizen. Local charges were dropped against both men and bumped to federal court.

  • Balcarcel pleaded guilty to a single charge of entering the country illegally and was likely deported, per WTVR.
  • Alvarado-Dubon is serving 16 months after pleading guilty on the gun charge. He told WTVR because he was accused in the plot, he's been assaulted in prison> His family in Guatemala has been threatened, and his daughter lost her job.

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