Man opens fire at DC pizzeria over fake news story
Edgar Maddison Welch, who took an assault rifle to a Washington pizza joint to investigate a fantastical conspiracy theory thrashing about in the dark crevices of the internet, has been worrying about The End of Days.
“Remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shining armor of right living,” Welch urged others on his Facebook page, citing a Biblical verse from Romans.
Welch, 28, of Salisbury, will remain for now in the custody of authorities in the District of Columbia, where he had a hearing Monday on charges of assault with a dangerous weapon, unlawful discharge of a firearm and other gun violations and was ordered held without bond.
Police said Welch told them that he came to Comet Ping Pong to personally investigate “Pizzagate,” an elaborate internet theory that a collusion of evil forces from Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign operates a pedophile sex ring out of secret catacombs beneath the restaurant.
“He had read online,” a police report said, “that the Comet restaurant was harboring child sex slaves and that he wanted to see for himself if they were there.”
He wanted to help rescue them, he told police.
Police said he fired three shots from an AR-15, then surrendered peacefully after finding no evidence of child sex slaves in the Chevy Chase restaurant.
Mainstream media is in on it
With the full protection of the mainstream media – adherents of the Pizzagate conspiracy say – a cabal involving Clinton’s campaign manager and others have been using symbols and codes hidden in plain sight, like the plot of a “National Treasure” movie, to operate a child trafficking network.
Though debunked by sources as diverse as The New York Times, Fox News Channel and the web hoax investigator Snopes, more than a million messages have traversed Twitter since November about #Pizzagate.
“We should all condemn the efforts of certain people to spread malicious and utterly false accusations about Comet Ping Pong, a venerated D.C. institution,” said James Alefantis, the restaurant’s owner, in a statement.
“These stories are completely and entirely false, and there is no basis in fact to any of them.”
Bouquets of flowers were propped up Monday against the front of the Connecticut Avenue restaurant, which was closed. A handmade sign in a child’s handwriting read, “We Love Comet.”
Welch, who spreads a message of religious zeal, the imminent Second Coming and Christian teachings through his Facebook account, emerged Monday as a study in contrasts.
He posted online about adventurous mountain-climbing expeditions to the N.C. highlands, upbeat gatherings with friends and uplifting affirmations. Occasionally he posted puns: “Sometimes I wonder ... ‘Why is that Frisbee getting bigger?’ ... And then it hits me.”
But his criminal record includes convictions for an underage driving after consuming alcohol and misdemeanor drug possession charges in 2007 when he was 19 in Cabarrus County and a 2013 driving while intoxicated conviction in Rowan County.
He also was named in two civil eviction actions, in Rowan County in 2007 and New Hanover County in 2011.
Welch, who attended Cape Fear Community College in Wilmington, had minor production and writing credits in three film productions shot in North Carolina, “Mute” in 2011 in Wilmington, “The Mill” in 2008 in Salisbury and “A Tale About Bootlegging” in 2005 in Boone, according to the Internet Movie Data Base.
He was also a member of the Locke Township Fire Department in Salisbury for a few months, leaving in 2012. “It wasn’t for him,” Rusty Alexander, fire chief, said Monday.
Welch’s legal situation will play out in court. His next hearing is Thursday. One of his more recent Facebook postings talks of higher authority
“We are not able to plan our own course,” Welch said, quoting Jeremiah. “So correct me, Lord, but please be gentle.”
Sophie Ota and researcher Maria David contributed to this report.