Enlarge / Edgar Maddison Welch, 28, is arrested outside the Comet Ping Pong restaurant December 4 in Washington, DC.ABC News/YouTube
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Last week, we brought you the bizarre tale of a gunman who drove from his North Carolina home to Washington, DC, to “self-investigate” a pizza restaurant at the center of a whacko fake news conspiracy called “Pizzagate.”
The story began when DC’s Metropolitan Police Department arrested 28-year-old Edgar Maddison Welch on allegations of assault with a dangerous weapon.
The feds took over the case on Tuesday and have charged Welch with Interstate Transportation of a Firearm with Intent to Commit an Offense, which carries a maximum 5-year term. Welch appeared in federal court in Washington, DC, on Tuesday and asked for a lawyer. He remains jailed until at least Friday, when a detention hearing is scheduled.
According to a federal agent’s affidavit, Welch went into the Comet Ping Pong restaurant December 4 armed with a loaded AR-15 assault-style rifle and carrying a loaded .38-caliber revolver.
WELCH entered the restaurant carrying the AR-15 across his chest, in a manner that instilled fear in everyone who saw him.
As WELCH moved towards the back of the restaurant, customers and employees fled the building, fearing for their lives. While WELCH was inside the restaurant, he fired the AR-15 multiple times.
Shortly after that, when an unaware employee walked through a rear door into the restaurant, WELCH turned towards the employee, such that his rifle was pointed in the direction of the employee, who immediately fled in fear. (PDF)
But why would Welch allegedly do this? According to FBI agent Justin Holgate:
As set forth below, WELCH appears to have been motivated, in part, by unfounded rumors concerning a child sex-trafficking ring that was being perpetrated by high-profile individuals at the Comet Ping Pong restaurant.
According to evidence obtained from his cellphone, it appears that WELCH had been contemplating a violent confrontation at the restaurant since at least December 1, 2016.
The evidence from WELCH’s cellphone also suggests that WELCH attempted to recruit at least two other people to join him.
For the uninitiated, Agent Holgate is describing “Pizzagate,” which is a baseless conspiracy theory about a secret pedophile group, the Comet Ping Pong restaurant, and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chief, John Podesta.
The Pizzagate conspiracy names Comet Ping Pong as the secret headquarters of a non-existent child sex-trafficking ring run by Clinton and members of her inner circle.
James Alefantis, the restaurant’s owner, said he has received hundreds of death threats.
The Pizzagate theory is believed to have been fostered by a white supremacist’s tweets, the 4chan message board, Reddit, Donald Trump supporters, right-wing blogs, and Michael G.
Flynn, a recently-fired member of President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team and the son of Lt.
Gen. Michael T.
Flynn, Trump’s choice for national security adviser.
At the restaurant, according to the FBI agent:
[Welch] searched for evidence of hidden rooms or tunnels or child sex-trafficking of any kind. WELCH stated that, at one point, he encountered a locked door. When he was unable to open the door, WELCH became suspicious and attempted to force it open with a butter knife and then by shooting the lock. WELCH said that he fired shots at the lock using his AR-15.
The agent wrote that the defendant was watching YouTube videos on December 1 when he texted his girlfriend about his research into Pizzagate. He said it made him “sick.” He texted another person identified as “B” to “Watch ‘PIZZAGATE: The bigger Picture’ on YouTube.”
Another text on December 2 to somebody identified as “C” in court papers asked if that person was “down for the cause.”
According to the affidavit:
Raiding a pedo ring, possibly sacraficing [sic] the lives of a few for the lives of many.
Standing up against a corrupt system that kidnaps, tortures, and rapes babies and children in our own backyard… defending the next generation of kids, our kids, from ever having to experience this kind of evil themselves[.] I’m sorry bro, but I’m tired of turning the channel and hoping someone does something and being thankful it’s not my family. One day it will be our families.
The world is too afraid to act and I’m too stubborn not to[.]
Hours before the incident, the authorities said he recorded a video on his mobile phone.
The phone camera was aimed at WELCH, who looked into the camera and told family members that he loved them; that he hoped that he had “showed it;” and that he hoped that he would be able to “tell [them] again.” “And if not,” he told them “don’t ever forget it.”
The agent said that, when the authorities arrived at the restaurant, customers were fleeing from the restaurant. Minutes later, Welch exited the building with his hands in the air.
The agent said the AR-15 had one round in the chamber and 22 rounds in the magazine.
The authorities also found shell casings, which was “consistent with the audible evidence that WELCH had discharged the AR-15 multiple times inside the restaurant.
“WELCH claimed that, after he found no evidence of child sex-trafficking, he exited the restaurant and surrendered himself to police officers that were already on-scene,” the agent wrote.