Richmond police say tip from 'hero citizen' helped thwart July 4 mass shooting

·Senior Writer
·3 min read

With the nation reeling from a holiday weekend marred by deadly shootings, including the massacre at an Independence Day parade in Highland Park, Ill., police in Richmond, Va., say they thwarted a planned attack on July 4 after receiving a tip that led to multiple arrests and the seizure of firearms.

At a press conference on Wednesday afternoon, Richmond Police Chief Gerald Smith said a “hero citizen” overheard a conversation about a mass shooting being planned for the city’s Fourth of July celebration and called police.

The tip led to an investigation by police, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. A subsequent search of a home in Richmond led to the seizure of two assault rifles, a handgun and 223 rounds of ammunition and the arrests of two men.

Julio Alvarado-Dubon was taken into custody Friday and charged with being a non-U.S. citizen in possession of a firearm, Smith said. A second man, Rolman Balacarcel, was placed under surveillance and taken into custody on Tuesday. He is facing the same charge.

Richmond Police Chief Gerald Smith
Richmond Police Chief Gerald Smith speaking at a press conference on Wednesday. (Richmond Police/Facebook)

Smith said that police do not know the motives of the alleged would-be attackers.

“There is no telling how many lives this hero citizen may have saved from one phone call,” Smith said. “We owe several lives to that person.”

“The success of this investigation can only be juxtaposed against the horrors which the rest of this country has seen,” he said. “Public safety is the responsibility of everyone.”

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney applauded law enforcement and the community for working together to “stop what could have been a terrible day for the city.”

“We've seen the proliferation of weapons of war being used on our civilian population throughout this country,” Stoney said. “We’ve seen it in Uvalde. We saw it in Buffalo. And, unfortunately, we saw it this past Fourth of July in Highland Park.”

“No community is immune,” the mayor said. But he added that it “does not have to be our narrative in Richmond.”

“That's why it’s important that we remember the phrase ‘See something, say something,’” Stoney said. “It worked for us on July 4, and it saved lives.”

The scene of the mass shooting at an Independence Day parade in Highland Park, Ill., one day later, on Tuesday
The scene of a mass shooting at a Fourth of July parade in Highland Park, Ill., one day later, on Tuesday. (Jacek Boczarski/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Their comments came a day after authorities in Highland Park disclosed that the alleged gunman who killed seven people at the parade there Monday had two prior interactions with police but was not placed on the “red flag” list that would have prevented him from buying the guns used in the attack.

The first incident was in April 2019, when police were called a week after a reported suicide attempt. The second was in September 2019, when a family member reported that he was threatening to “kill everyone.” Police responded and confiscated 16 knives, a dagger and a sword.

The alleged gunman legally purchased five firearms, including the rifle he used in the July 4 massacre, over the course of approximately a year, encompassing parts of 2020 and 2021, authorities said. He passed the four background checks required to purchase those weapons.