RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Two men charged in connection with what police have said was a thwarted Fourth of July mass shooting in Richmond, Virginia, were ordered held without bond Monday during brief court hearings that produced no new details about the alleged plot.
Rolman Balcarcel Ac, 38, and Julio Alvarado-Dubon, 52, both from Guatemala, were each arrested on a single charge of possession of a firearm by a non-U.S. citizen after Richmond police said they received a call from a concerned citizen who said he overheard a conversation indicating there was an attack being planned on an Independence Day celebration in the capital city.
Authorities have said both men are in the U.S. illegally.
After receiving the tip, police seized two assault rifles, a handgun and hundreds of rounds of ammunition from the Richmond home the two men shared.
In a search warrant affidavit, a Richmond detective said the tipster told police that Balcarcel was planning the attack and showed him three guns on June 21. The tipster also said Balcarcel has connections to the Los Zetas drug cartel, which operates in Mexico and the U.S.
Balcarcel’s attorney, Samuel Simpson V, said Monday that he would be “very surprised” if Balcarcel Ac and Alvarado-Dubon were planning a mass shooting.
“It’s my understanding that these guys are from Guatemala and they’re just here to work,” Simpson said.
Simpson also expressed skepticism about the claim that Balcarcel is connected to Los Zetas. “That’s a non sequitur to me. That’s not a Guatemalan thing,” he said.
Simpson acknowledged that he has not been able to talk to Balcarcel yet and that he does not know yet what evidence police have.
The search warrant affidavit says that after police received the tip, they contacted Homeland Security, then went to a home in Richmond, where Alvarado-Dubon answered the door and allowed them to come inside.
Detective Michael Kiniri wrote that a second man appeared and provided a Colorado identification with the name “Rolman A. Balcarcel AC.” The affidavit said Balcarcel had two Colorado driver’s licenses, a Guatemala ID and a Mexico ID. An agent from Homeland Security Investigations determined that Balcarcel Ac has had two previous deportations, the affidavit states.
Both men have been held in local jails since their arrests, although a bond of $15,000 was set last week for Alvarado-Dubon.
Prosecutors had initially appealed the bond decision. But when Alvarado-Dubon appeared in Richmond Circuit Court Monday for a hearing, his attorney told the judge he agreed with prosecutors that the bond decision should be revoked because of a pending immigration detainer, a notice that the Department of Homeland Security issues to inform law enforcement agencies that ICE plans to take custody of someone.
Alvarado-Dubon’s attorney declined to comment after the brief hearing, during which there was no mention of the weapons charge or alleged plot.
Balcarcel was arraigned Monday via a video feed; he will also continue to be held without bond. An immigration detainer also has been lodged against him.
During a news conference last week, Richmond police Chief Gerald Smith said the tipster said the attack was planned for the Dogwood Dell Amphitheater, where an annual fireworks show is held. Smith said police have not identified any motive for the alleged plot.
The announcement from Richmond police that they had thwarted an attack came on July 6, two days after a gunman opened fire from a rooftop during a Fourth of July parade in the affluent Chicago suburb of Highland Park, killing seven people and injuring more than three dozen.
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