RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Richmond Police Chief Gerald Smith admitted that communication could’ve been better on July 6 when he and Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney stated that the Richmond Police Department (RPD) foiled a mass shooting plot targeting Dogwood Dell.
“Could we have communicated things better? Yeah, we could have,” Smith said during an interview with WFXR’s sister station, WRIC, on Tuesday, Aug. 16. “Was our communication perfect in regards to this? No. I don’t know what perfect communication looks like in a dynamic crisis such as this.”
Smith said RPD had made changes to communication methods both internally and externally in an effort to improve in the future.
“It’s making our communications better not in just dynamic crisis situations — as we were dealing with here — but our day-to-day communications,” Smith said.
A Richmond spokesperson reached out to WRIC on Tuesday afternoon, saying Smith would be available for a discussion later in the afternoon. The interview took place a little over a week after Smith declared that he would no longer speak publicly about the alleged mass shooting plot.
“We are closing all discussion about the planned Fourth of July mass shooting,” Smith had said at an RPD quarterly crime briefing on Aug. 8. “The matter is now in the hands of the federal government. As I’ve often stated, we will follow wherever the investigation leads us.”
Since asked making those statements, U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine and Richmond Councilor Katherine Jordan both came forward calling for more answers.
When asked why he had chosen to break his silence on the subject today, Smith said he wanted to be open and transparent.
“There is a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking taking place and criticism and, you know, that’s my job as the Chief of Police,” Smith said. “I just get frustrated. And I think it’s rightly so when we overlook that this was a win for the City of Richmond. We won the game.”
Smith said he also wanted to prevent any of the recent controversies from interfering with the prosecution of the two accused men — Julio Cesar Alvarado-Dubon and Rolman Balcarcel-Bavagas — by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Smith continued to stand by his earlier statements that the Dogwood Dell was identified as the target for the mass shooting plot.
During court proceedings for the accused in the mass shooting plot on Aug. 3, it was revealed that the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office had no evidence pointing to a specific time and place for the mass shooting.
That same day, when asked how it was determined that Dogwood Dell was the target of the alleged mass shooting plot, Smith said it came from the “experienced knowledge” of RPD officers during an impromptu press conference.
“I determined it was the Dogwood Dell from the facts; from the tipster; from the investigation; and from my 30 years of experience,” Smith said during his interview with WFXR’s sister station. “This is what we do every day. If we have a rash of commercial burglaries, we put our resources where there are commercial businesses. We would not take those resources and put them into a residential area.”
During RPD’s original announcement on July 6, Smith said that authorities were also monitoring other sites of concern during the holiday, including The Diamond, which was hosting a Fourth of July celebration along with the Flying Squirrels game. According to Smith, the RPD did not identify the Diamond or any other locations as a target.
“The Diamond? Yes, there was a large group of people gathering there but the most likely place would have been the Dogwood Dell,” Smith told WRIC during Tuesday’s interview. “But we would not ignore the Diamond. We don’t ignore whenever there is a baseball game there. We do have resources there.”
Even before knowledge of the mass shooting plot, Smith said that RPD had increased security measures prepared for Dogwood Dell. When asked if the same measures were taken with the Diamond, Smith replied that he had not reviewed the plan for the Diamond and could not comment.
RPD confirmed that roughly 9,810 people attended The Diamond on the Fourth of July for the celebrations.