October 4, 2022

A judge dismissed state gun charges Wednesday after new federal charges were filed against two men who local police previously alleged were planning a July 4 mass shooting in Virginia’s capital, Richmond.

However, neither has been specifically accused of planning mass shootings.

Julio Alvarado-Dubon and Rolman Balcarcel-Bavagas, both immigrants from Guatemala, were charged in state court last month with possession of a firearm by a non-U.S. citizen. Richmond police held a press conference at the time to announce that they had foiled a July 4 mass attack planned by the men. The press conference came just two days after the deadly holiday mass shooting in suburban Chicago.

Richmond Police Chief Gerald Smith said at the time that a “hero citizen” contact the police after overhearing a conversation suggesting an attack on an Independence Day celebration in Richmond was being planned. The caller said the attack was planned for the Dogwood Dell Amphitheater, where an annual fireworks show is held, Smith said.

Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney Colette McEachin said Wednesday that her office has asked federal authorities to take over the case.

“These are two illegal aliens with guns, so we wanted to prosecute them to the highest degree possible,” McEachin said.

Alvarado-Dubon was charged Tuesday in federal court with possession of a firearm by a non-U.S. citizen. An affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint against Alvarado-Dubon said he last entered the U.S. in 2014 and had overstayed his visa for more than seven years. His attorney, Jose Aponte, said he is scheduled to be arraigned Friday in U.S. District Court. Aponte declined to comment on the case.

Balcarcel-Bavagas was charged in a federal criminal complaint with illegal entry into the US. His attorney, Samuel Simpson V, did not immediately return a call seeking comment. An affidavit prepared by an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent said Balcarcel-Bavagas had been deported twice before — in 2013 and 2014 — and re-entered the U.S. illegally.

During a hearing in Richmond General District Court on Wednesday, Judge David Hicks asked a state prosecutor if there was evidence the mass shooting was planned in Dogwood Dell, the location Smith had mentioned.

Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Clint Seale said there was evidence of a planned shooting, but not a specific location.

Hicks said he raised the issue because two of his sons were at Dogwood Dell on the Fourth of July. He said that if there was evidence that the shooting was planned at that location, he would have a conflict of interest and would have to recuse himself from the case.

There are no details about the alleged shooting plot in documents filed in state or federal court, and police have not disclosed a motive.

Richmond police released a statement Wednesday saying Smith “stands behind the investigative work done by Richmond police detectives to stop a mass shooting planned for the Fourth of July.”

A search warrant affidavit filed in state court said that after police received the tip, they contacted Homeland Security and then went to a home in Richmond where police said both men lived. Officers seized two assault rifles, a handgun and hundreds of rounds of ammunition.

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