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Tip helped foil July Fourth mass shooting in Richmond, police say

A tip from a concerned citizen helped Richmond police thwart a potential mass shooting targeting the July Fourth celebration in Virginia’s capital, authorities said Wednesday.

Officers arrested two men on weapons charges and recovered guns and ammunition in connection with the planned attack, which was to occur at the Dogwood Dell amphitheater, Richmond Police Chief Gerald M. Smith said at a news conference. The motive is still under investigation.

Smith credited the tipster with averting carnage.

“There is no telling how many lives this hero citizen saved with this one phone call,” Smith said.

The investigation began Friday after an unidentified person overheard a conversation that indicated a mass shooting was being planned for July 4 and alerted Richmond police, Smith said.

City police and federal authorities began an investigation that took them to a residence in the 1000 block of Columbia Avenue in Richmond, Smith said. The investigators found evidence “in plain view” that corroborated the tipster’s account, the chief said. He did not detail what that evidence was, and the men are not charged specifically with making any threats.

Authorities seized two assault rifles, a handgun and 223 rounds of ammunition, Smith said. Julio Alvarado-Dubon, 52, was arrested and charged with being a noncitizen in possession of a firearm, Smith said. He is being held at the Richmond jail.

Investigators watched a second suspect throughout the July Fourth holiday weekend, then arrested him Tuesday once they had probable cause to do so, Smith said. The second suspect, Rolman A. Balacarcel, 38, was also charged with being a noncitizen in possession of a firearm. Balacarcel is being held at the city jail.

Smith said the suspects, who were roommates, were not known to law enforcement.

This developing story has been updated.