Edgar Maddison Welch of Salisbury pleaded guilty Friday to bringing a loaded AR-15 assault rifle and a revolver into a northwest Washington pizza restaurant, where he terrified employees and patrons and fired an assault rifle into a door.
Government officials say Welch was motivated, at least in part, by unfounded rumors concerning a child sex-trafficking ring that supposedly was being perpetrated at the establishment. It’s been called the “PizzaGate” conspiracy theory.
A March 24 statement from the Department of Justice said Welch, 28, pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to a federal charge of interstate transportation of a firearm and ammunition, and a District of Columbia charge of assault with a dangerous weapon.
The federal charge carries a statutory maximum of 10 years in prison and the District of Columbia charge carries a statutory maximum of 10 years. Under sentencing guidelines, the parties have agreed that Welch faces a likely range of 18 to 24 months in prison for the federal charge, and 18 to 60 months for the District of Columbia charge.
Sentencing is scheduled for June 22. Welch has been in custody since his arrest on the day of the incident.
The charges stem from a Dec. 4 incident in which Welch walked into the Comet Ping Pong restaurant in northwest Washington carrying a 9mm AR-15 assault rifle loaded with approximately 29 rounds of ammunition, a fully-loaded, six-shot, .38-caliber revolver, and a loaded shotgun.
After spending more than 20 minutes inside, Welch left his firearms and exited the restaurant unarmed. He was then arrested. The assault rifle and revolver were recovered inside the restaurant. A shotgun also was recovered from the defendant’s car, along with a box of shotgun ammunition.