A North Carolina man arrested after he fired a rifle inside of a Washington D.C. pizzeria on Sunday told authorities that he initially believed fake online news reports that the restaurant harbored child sex slaves but surrendered after he determined that children were not being held captive there.
Edgar Maddison Welch, 28, has been charged with four counts related to the incident, which occurred at around 3 p.m. at Comet Ping Pong, a popular pizza restaurant in the northwest part of Washington D.C.
The restaurant has been the target of baseless online accusations that its owner, James Alefantis, and Democratic political operatives use the restaurant as a base for a child sex trafficking operation. The false story gained traction on several chat forums after users claimed they found evidence of the sex ring in emails hacked from the Gmail account of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta.
Podesta was a patron of the restaurant, and Alefantis’ ex-boyfriend is David Brock, a Democratic operative with close ties to Clinton.
According to a police report posted online by The New York Times, Welch, a native of Salisbury, N.C., confirmed that the online posts about Comet Ping Pong motivated him to investigate the child sex ring claims.
“He had read online that the Comet restaurant was harboring child sex slaves and that he wanted to see for himself if they were there,” reads the report.
Welch “stated he was armed to help rescue them,” but he “surrendered peacefully when he found no evidence that underage children were being harbored in the restaurant.”
Welch was armed with an AR-15 and a handgun. He faces four criminal charges, including assault with a dangerous weapon, carrying a pistol without a license, unlawful discharge of a firearm and the unlawful carrying of a firearm.
One employee said that Welch swung the AR-15 in his direction. He also fired the rifle while inside the restaurant, though nobody was hurt.
According to The Times, Welch was arrainged on Monday. A judge ordered him to remain in custody.