Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) said that Richmond authorities need to provide an explanation after questions arose about the alleged July 4 mass shooting Richmond police said they prevented.
“If there are facts suggesting that this really was a potential mass tragedy, those need to be put on the table,” Kaine said Friday according to WTVR. “City officials didn’t have to put it on the table at the outset. They could have just said, ‘we’ve arrested some people.’ But they put it on the table that we’ve arrested them, and this was going to be a mass shooting incident.”
After the Fourth of July, Richmond Police Chief Gerald Smith and Mayor Levar Stoney held a press conference where they announced the arrest of two Guatemalan nationals, one on July 1, and one on July 5. Both were allegedly in the U.S. illegally, and police said they seized multiple firearms during arrests of the two men. Smith also said an anonymous tipster heard a phone call indicating plans to attack at a large fireworks show held at Dogwood Dell, a local park. The case got significant attention in part due to a July 4 mass shooting that did occur in Illinois.
The announcement by Richmond authorities also came shortly after Richmond police retracted a statement that tear gas deployed against demonstrators on June 1, 2020 was necessary to protect officers cut off by violent protesters.
“There were no RPD officers cut off by violent protesters at the Lee Monument. There was no need for gas at Lee Monument to get RPD officers to safety,” the Richmond Police Department tweeted July 1.
Richmond media continued to ask authorities for more details about the alleged plot against the Dogwood Dell fireworks show.
On August 3, a Richmond prosecutor told a judge that there wasn’t evidence that the shooting was targeting Dogwood Dell specifically, although the prosecutor did say there was evidence suggesting a potential shooting, according to Axios Richmond.
That launched a new round of questions from the media for Smith, who told the media at a quarterly crime briefing Monday, “We are closing all discussion about the planned Fourth of July mass shooting,” according to WRIC.
He said, “The matter is now in the hands of the federal government. As I’ve often stated, we will follow wherever the investigation leads us.”
On Friday, Kaine said that there’s no shame in correcting earlier reports by authorities, according to The Richmond Times-Dispatch.
“I think, though, city officials are duty-bound to provide an explanation because they came out strong about this is what this was,” he said according to The Times. “If they did an arrest up front and they didn’t say ‘this was going to be a mass-shooting incident,’ then they wouldn’t owe an explanation about a decision with respect to these charges.”
“But having come out of the gate and [said] ‘Okay, this is a mass shooting incident,’ and then prosecutorial decisions suggest well maybe it wasn’t, I think you have to answer that question.”
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Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected].
Background Photo “Richmond Skyline” by Ɱ. CC BY-SA 4.0.