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Stoney stands by not releasing alleged July Fourth shooting plot documents

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Mayor Levar Stoney on Wednesday said he’s following state code by not releasing certain internal city documents related to a mass shooting plot that authorities said was planned on July 4 in Richmond.

The Times-Dispatch has filed two Freedom of Information Act requests for emails and other documents from Stoney and Richmond police related to a July 6 news conference about the alleged plot and the arrest of two suspects. Other media outlets have filed similar document requests.

Police Chief Gerald Smith said they were tipped off by a citizen who overheard a conversation about a shooting. Smith said the shooting was to have occurred during an Independence Day celebration at Dogwood Dell amphitheater.

But a police spokeswoman later told television station WRIC-TV that the tip did not include a specific location. A court affidavit also doesn’t give a location for the shooting.

Stoney’s office opted not to disclose several documents pertaining to the request, citing one of the 150 record exemptions outlined in the state’s open records act.

The exemption allows elected officials to not make public documents that are for “personal or deliberative use,” available.

“We are following the code of Virginia,” Stoney said Wednesday.

However, the code Stoney referenced is permissive, not mandatory. The code states that records of this nature “may be disclosed by the custodian in his discretion, except where such disclosure is prohibited by law.”

So although Stoney has the ability to release some personal records, the mayor has opted not to, as is consistent with FOIA law and the mayor’s own policy.

“Those documents are protected and that’s always been our policy since day one, since I took office here in 2017,” said Stoney.

The alleged Richmond shooting was to occur the same day a gunman opened fire during a July Fourth parade in suburban Chicago, killing multiple people.

LGerman@timesdispatch.com (804) 649-6340 Twitter: @Lyndon__G

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