RPD Chief says communication issue to blame over alleged mass shooting plot

Looking back, Chief Smith says they didn’t get the messaging right.
Published: Aug. 16, 2022 at 5:06 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - In an about-face, Richmond Police Chief Gerald Smith is now willing to speak about an alleged mass shooting plot. NBC12 asked the chief if he had any regrets.

“No. I won’t say any regrets, but I know there’s some things we could have done very differently,” said Chief Gerald Smith of the Richmond Police Dept.

In July, the city council’s chief, the mayor and members stood before cameras proclaiming police thwarted a mass shooting plot planned for the Fourth of July celebration at Dogwood Dell. Looking back, Chief Smith says they didn’t get the messaging right.

“We have learned, and we have made changes and continue to make changes so that we will hopefully, this won’t happen again here, but in case of another crisis, we will communicate better internally and externally,” said Chief Smith.

Following the press conference, questions emerged about why event organizers and police working the event weren’t told about the threat. And there are questions about why the suspects charged in the case don’t face more serious charges.

“There’s going to be plenty of Monday morning quarterbacking and the criticisms, the shortcomings of some of our communications, yeah, I’m the Chief of Police. You know, I can take that and will take that,” said Chief Smith.

U.S. Senator Tim Kaine and several city council members are now asking for clarity on the issue. Councilors are currently working to have a meeting in September on this issue.

“I think what they want is to address some of the issues or the elephants in the room, and I think the biggest one is about the Dogwood Dell. How did I come across it? How did I decide on Dogwood Dell? There are the facts. There’s the investigation. There’s the 30 years of my experience in policing. That’s how I came to believe the Dogwood Dell was the target,” said Chief Smith.

NBC12 also asked the chief if this is causing more trust issues between police and the community.

“It may have. But it’s not on the officers. It is our communication plan. I will take the hits for that,” said Chief Smith.

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