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Richmond Mayor's office opts to withhold public records related to the alleged July 4th mass shooting plot

Posted at 10:14 AM, Jul 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-27 10:14:26-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney and his press secretary Jim Nolan have chosen to withhold public records related to the July 4th mass shooting citing those records as part of the Mayor's working papers under Virginia Code.

Earlier this month, CBS 6 reported multiple Crime Insider sources reached out to raise red flags about what Stoney and Richmond Police Chief Gerald Smith said during a July 6 news conference in which they announced Richmond Police foiled a mass shooting plot to attack a 4th of July celebration in Richmond.

Gerald M. Smith, Levar Stoney
Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney, left, gestures while Police Chief Gerald M Smith, right, listens during a press conference at Richmond Virginia Police headquarters, Wednesday, July 6, 2022, in Richmond, Va. Police said Wednesday that they thwarted a planned July 4 mass shooting after receiving a tip that led to arrests and the seizure of multiple guns.

In order to learn more about the discussions that took place surrounding the alleged mass shooting plot, the CBS 6 Problem Solvers submitted Freedom of Information Act requests to various city officials.

Two weeks later, the city replied that no such records existed for certain high-level city officials.

However, the city admitted that emails and text messages we requested do exist in Stoney and Nolan's records, but the Mayor's office would not release those communications as part of the Mayor's "working papers" under Virginia code.

Specifically, those communications include:

  • Four of the Mayor's text messages
  • Two emails containing drafts of the press conference about the mass shooting at Richmond Police headquarters
  • One text message between Jim Nolan and Mayor Stoney
  • Four Jim Nolan's emails; three of them pertaining to July 4th, and one, which has the word mass shooting appear in the Mayor's schedule.
  • A single text of a draft of a social media post promoting July 4th fireworks at Dogwood Dell

Two men were arrested in connection with the alleged July 4 plot.

Chief Smith said it all started when investigators received a call from a "hero tipster" who said that the suspects were planning a mass shooting at the Dogwood Dell fireworks show.

But, Dogwood Dell was not specifically named in the search warrant affidavit, and Crime Insider sources told CBS 6 that the alleged threat was vague.

To that end, the two men have only been charged with gun possession, nothing involving planning an attack.

Sources told CBS 6 that the Richmond Police officers who worked July 4, including officers stationed at the Dogwood Dell event, were not made aware of any threat.

We asked the Mayor's office why they are choosing to withhold these public records, and Jim Nolan shared the following statement with Melissa Hipolit:

Virginia law protects the confidentiality of the mayor’s working papers and correspondence. This long-standing policy of the administration has been consistently applied, regardless of subject matter.

This is a developing story, so anyone with more information can email newstips@wtvr.com to send a tip.