RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – Chief Gerald Smith admitted communications could have been better on July 6 when he and Mayor Levar Stoney said the Richmond Police Department (RPD) had foiled a mass shooting at Dogwood Dell.
“Could we have communicated things better? Yes, we would have,” Smith said in an interview with 8News on Tuesday. “Was our communication perfect on this? no I don’t know what perfect communication looks like in a dynamic crisis like this.”
Smith said that RPD made changes to how it communicates, both internally and externally, to improve going forward.
“It improves our communication not only in dynamic crisis situations – like we had here – but also in our daily communication,” said Smith.
A little over a week later, Smith agreed to an interview with 8News He stated that he would no longer speak publicly about the alleged mass shooting plan.
“We are finalizing all discussions about the proposed Fourth of July mass shooting,” Smith had said Aug. 8 at a quarterly RDP crime briefing. “The matter is now in the hands of the federal government. As I have said many times, we will follow where the investigation takes us.”
When asked why he broke his silence on the subject today, Smith said he wanted to be open and transparent.
“There’s a lot of quarterbacking and criticism going on Monday morning, and you know, that’s my job as the police chief,” Smith said. “I’m just frustrated. And I think we’re right if we overlook the fact that this was a win for the City of Richmond. We won the game.”
Smith said he also wanted to prevent the recent controversy from interfering with US prosecutors’ prosecution of the two indicted suspects — Julio Cesar Alvarado-Dubon and Rolman Balcarcel-Bavagas.
Smith continued to stand by his previous statements that the Dogwood Dell was identified as a target for the mass shooting.
During the trial for the defendants in the mass shooting attack on Wednesday, August 3, It has been revealed that the Commonwealth Prosecutor’s Office had no evidence pointing to a specific time and place for the mass shooting.
When asked the same day how it was determined Dogwood Dell was the target of the alleged mass shooting, Smith said it came from the “experienced knowledge” of RPD officials during an impromptu news conference.
“I have established from the facts that this is the Dogwood Dell; from the tipster; from the investigation; and from my 30 years of experience,” Smith said during his interview with 8News. “We do that every day. In the case of commercial burglaries, we use our resources where there are commercial operations. We wouldn’t take those resources and put them in a residential area.”
During RPD’s original announcement on July 6th, Chief Smith said authorities were also monitoring other places of concern during the holiday, including The Diamond, which was hosting a Fourth of July celebration alongside the Flying Squirrels game. Smith said RPD had not identified the Diamond or any other location as a target.
“The Diamond? Yes, there was a large group of people gathering there, but the most likely location would have been the Dogwood Dell,” Smith told 8News during Tuesday’s interview. “But we wouldn’t ignore the Diamond. We don’t ignore if.” There’s a baseball game going on there. We have resources there.”
Prior to learning of the mass shooting plot, Chief Smith said RPD had prepared increased security for Dogwood Dell. When asked if the same actions were taken at the Diamond, Smith said he had not reviewed the plan for the Diamond and could not comment.
Richmond Police confirmed that around 9,810 people attended the celebrations at The Diamond on July 4th.