Officers seized two assault rifles, a handgun and 223 rounds of ammunition from the residence where two men accused of planning a mass shooting lived. Photo courtesy of Richmond Police Department/Twitter
July 7 (UPI) -- Authorities and officials in Virginia said a tip from the public resulted in the thwarting of a potential mass shooting planned for July Fourth celebrations in the city of Richmond.
"Working on a tip, our officers quietly investigated and collaborated with their law enforcement partners and the community to stop what could have been a terrible day for the city of Richmond," Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney said during a press conference Wednesday.
Richmond Police Chief Gerald Smith told reporters that a "hero citizen" had called authorities July 1 concerning an overheard conversation that there was to be a mass shooting at the Dogwood Amphitheater where festivities were planned.
The tip spearheaded an investigation that took officers to a residence in the 3100 block of Columbia Street where they found "evidence in plain view" that corroborated the citizen's complaint.
At the residence, officers seized two assault rifles, a handgun and 223 rounds of ammunition, he said, adding police also arrested Julio Alvarado-Dubon, 52.
The investigation continued, and officers identified a second suspect, who they surveilled through the July Fourth holiday and arrested on Tuesday, Smith said, identifying the man as Rolman A. Balacarcel, 38.
Both men have each been charged with being a noncitizen in possession of a firearm and are being held at the Richmond jail.
"There is no telling how many lives this hero citizen saved from one phone call," Smith said. "One phone call saved numerous lives on the Fourth of July and moving forward we implore everyone, if you see something, say something. If you hear something, say something."
When asked to explain what the two men had planned, Smith said they "were planning to actually shoot up our Fourth of July celebrations."
"We know what their intent is but we don't have their motive," he said, adding the two men were roommates who were unknown to the police.
The press conference was held days after a gunman on a rooftop opened fire on a crowd assembled along the street of Highland Park, Ill. for a July Fourth parade, resulting in the deaths of seven people and more than two dozen wounded.
"As we continue to live through an era, an age of mass shootings all around our county, no community is immune. And this reminds us that this doesn't have to be our narrative in Richmond or anywhere else around our country," Stoney said.
Gov. Glenn Youngkin on Wednesday issued a statement of thanks to the unnamed person who called the tip into police.
"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," he tweeted. "It's a great reminder that if you see something, say something to your local PD."