A man armed with an assault rifle entered a pizza parlor in an upscale Washington, D.C., neighborhood Sunday apparently inspired by a false news report that the establishment was working with Hillary Clinton to run a child sex ring.
Edgar Maddison Welch, of Salisbury, N.C., told police he walked in the front door of Comet Ping Pong in Chevy Chase and pointed a firearm in the direction of a restaurant employee in an attempt to "self-investigate" the conspiracy theory that circulated online during Clinton's campaign.
The restaurant’s owner and employees were threatened on social media in the days before the election after fake news stories circulated claiming that then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and her campaign chief were running a child sex ring from the restaurant’s back rooms. Even Michael Flynn, a retired general who President-elect Donald Trump has tapped to advise him on national security, shared the stories. None of them were true. But the fake stories and threats persisted, some even aimed at the employees’ children. The restaurant’s owner was forced to contact the FBI, local police, Facebook and other social media platforms in an effort to remove the articles.
The 28-year-old man discharged his weapon in the restaurant, but no one was injured. Police responded quickly and the man was ultimately arrested. Firearms were found in the man's car.
The incident caused a panic in the neighborhood as other establishments that share a block with Comet Ping Pong have recently been the targets of threats regarding what the neighborhood is calling "Pizza Gate."
Bradley Graham, a co-owner of nearby Politics and Prose bookstore, said the neighborhood has been "shaken" by the harassment and the incident Sunday. From The Examiner:
[Graham] said the businesses are hoping to get more police protection, “and we would also hope that law enforcement authorities will be prompted to take additional measures to shut down the sites where this hateful material is being spread, and also measures to try to trace the menacing phone calls.
Welch has been charged with assault with a dangerous weapon.