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'Hero' tipster foiled a planned mass shooting on July 4 in Richmond, Va., police say

Two men were arrested on weapons charges after the tipster told police about overhearing plans for a mass shooting at a holiday event.
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A tipster whom officials are calling a "hero" may have prevented a mass shooting at a July Fourth event in Richmond, Virginia.

The caller told police about overhearing plans for a mass shooting at a holiday celebration at the city's Dogwood Dell Amphitheater. The tip led to the arrests of two men who police said were found with assault rifles, a handgun and 223 rounds of ammunition, law enforcement officials said Wednesday.

“One phone call saved numerous lives on the Fourth of July,” Police Chief Gerald M. Smith said at a news conference.

Julio Alvarado-Dubon, 52, and Rolman A. Balacarcel, 38, were arrested on charges of being non-U.S. citizens in possession of firearms, police said.

Police said they believe that the men, who are roommates, were planning a mass shooting at the amphitheater in Byrd Park, which seats around 2,400. A motive is not known.

Image: Richmond Police Chief Gerald Smith during a news conference on July 6, 2022, in Richmond, Va. where police said they thwarted a planned July 4 mass shooting after receiving a tip that led to arrests and the seizure of multiple guns.
Police Chief Gerald Smith at a news conference Wednesday in Richmond, Va., where police said they had thwarted a planned July Fourth mass shooting after they got a tip that led to arrests and the seizure of multiple guns.Steve Helber / AP

Both men were being held in jail Wednesday, police said. An attorney listed as representing Alvarado-Dubon could not be reached for comment Wednesday night. It was not clear whether Balacarcel had an attorney.

Smith said that when officers entered the roommates' home Friday, they found weapons and "firearms-related material that was in plain view."

A police spokesperson said the men are from Guatemala. Initial court documents say that Alvarado-Dubon and Balacarcel are not in the U.S. legally and that Alvarado-Dubon's visa is expired, The Associated Press reported.

Authorities announced the arrests and described the alleged plot two days after a gunman opened fire on a Fourth of July parade in Highland Park, Illinois, killing seven people and wounding many others.

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney said police acted “to stop what could have been a terrible day for the city of Richmond,” and he thanked the person who called the information in.

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin tweeted that the person who notified police was a hero who stopped a "potential massacre."

Police said that the investigation continues and that the Department of Homeland Security is involved. The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will trace the guns, Smith said.