A North Carolina man was arrested yesterday after he walked into a popular pizza restaurant in Washington, D.C., carrying an AR-15 assault-style rifle and fired one or more shots. The man told police he had come to the restaurant to “self-investigate” a false election-related conspiracy theory involving Hillary Clinton that spread online during her presidential campaign, the Washington Post reports. The incident caused panic, with several businesses going into lockdown as police swarmed the neighborhood after receiving the call shortly before 3 p.m.
Police said Edgar Maddison Welch, 28, of Salisbury, N.C., walked in the front door of Comet Ping Pong and pointed a firearm in the direction of a restaurant employee. The employee was able to flee and notify police. Police said Welch proceeded to discharge the rifle inside the restaurant. Welch has been charged with assault with a dangerous weapon. Police said there were no reported injuries. The popular family restaurant was swept up in the onslaught of fake news and conspiracy theories that were prevalent during the presidential campaign. The restaurant, its owner, staff, and nearby businesses have been attacked on social media and received death threats. James Alefantis, the owner of Comet Ping Pong, said the incident “demonstrates that promoting false and reckless conspiracy theories comes with consequences. I hope that those involved in fanning these flames will take a moment to contemplate what happened here … and stop promoting these falsehoods right away.” Fake news stories claimed that then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and her campaign chief were running a child sex ring from the restaurant’s backrooms.