Dogwood Dell community feels ignored by RPD after alleged mass shooting plot: 'Everybody's got suspicions'

Dogwood Dell community feels ignored by RPD after alleged mass shooting plot: 'Everybody's got suspicions'
Posted at 12:23 PM, Jul 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-12 12:23:28-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- As questions continue to swirl surrounding Richmond Police's claim that they stopped a July 4th mass shooting at Dogwood Dell, people who live near and work at the park said they feel ignored by law enforcement and city leaders.

RELATED: Bond revoked for man police named in Richmond July 4 shooting plot

On Monday afternoon, Chris Foote and his crew were gearing up for upcoming performances at the outdoor amphitheater.

“We're doing it because we love the Richmond community," Foote said.

Foote thoroughly enjoys his job as the production manager of the Dell's summer shows, except he currently feels uneasy at his job.

A week ago, Foote was working the annual Independence Day celebration, an event he said ran smoothly with up to 4,000 in attendance. However, he learned after the fact, through news coverage on CNN, that Richmond Police allegedly foiled a mass shooting that they said was supposed to happen at the event.

“It struck a lot of fear into us," Foote said. “It caught us off guard, it caught us deeply by surprise, and it scared us. It scared us a lot.”

Foote said he immediately regrouped with his team, which is outsourced and contracted through the city, and they became concerned with what they call a "lack of safety procedures" in the event of an emergency.

Moving forward, Foote said they demand at every performance:

  • Police presence
  • EMS on site
  • WiFi to ensure communication

“As a crew, we do not feel comfortable continuing going forward with shows unless we see action on these things," Foote said.

CBS 6 reached out to Richmond Parks & Rec, to which Foote said their demands were sent, for a response and has not yet heard back.

It's not just the folks working at Dogwood Dell who remain upset but also neighbors in the surrounding community.

President of the Carillon Civic Association, Paige Quilter, said her top priority is keeping residents informed so they can make safe decisions, but she said it's impossible to fulfill that right now.

“Everybody's got suspicions. Everybody's talking," Quilter said. "What's going on, and why doesn't anybody tell anybody what's going on?"

Quilter said her organization maintains great relationships with law enforcement, the city council, and Parks & Rec. She's been asking questions to her contacts since RPD's Wednesday press conference, which she said made her "heart drop," and hasn't heard anything.

"My immediate thought was, 'Oh, my gosh, what are we going to do?' We've got a program coming up in two weeks," she said. "How do we keep our neighbors safe, and how do we let them know what's going on? Is there going to be a security increase? Is there a chance that something like this could happen again?"

Quilter said she typically receives responses from city officials right away, so it's been "discombobulating" to be kept out of the loop.

“That’s the most frightening thing there is -- not knowing and not being able to protect the people that you're here to serve," she said. “Why is there such a huge communication breakdown in this city?”

CBS 6 took Quilter's concerns to Richmond Police. RPD spokesperson, Tracy Walker, responded, "We completely understand the concerns of our community. Please know that Chief Gerald Smith is determined to address threats to public safety within our city. As he conveyed during the press conference, the Department takes every threat seriously, reiterating the importance of 'see something, say something.'"

CBS 6 also asked if security would be ramped up at future events at Dogwood Dell. RPD's response did not directly answer the question.

"Our precinct officers and special operations units work in collaboration to increase the security of our neighborhoods and with event organizers to deploy officers for public safety at special events," Walker said.

Quilter and Foote agreed their concerns could've been avoided if the police would've never publicly named Dogwood Dell as an intended target during the press conference, a detail that sparked questions after court documents never listed a specific location for the July 4th threat.

“They didn’t have to even say it," Quilter said.

“Why even bring it up? Why, what grounds does it help? What were you trying to achieve," Foote said.

Quilter and Foote said they requested to be heard on behalf of the communities they advocate for.

"It feels like the Richmond Police Department is not really recognizing us as part of the community," Foote said.

"Please, please just talk to us," Quilter said.

Richmond Police maintained they did not release information about the alleged plot in an effort to not tip off suspects or incite fear.