On Sunday, a 28-year-old man from Salisbury, North Carolina, fired shots inside a pizzeria in northwest Washington, D.C. Armed with an assault rifle, he later told police he wanted to “self-investigate” a fraudulent election conspiracy theory connected to Hillary Clinton.
According to the Washington Post, Edgar Maddison Welch walked into Comet Ping Pong, a favorite among locals, and aimed at an employee. After the employee dashed off to call the police, Welch began shooting. Reports indicate, however, that all patrons were able to flee and no one was injured.
The incident, while terrifying, was brief. Police arrived on the scene minutes after receiving the call, and Welch was arrested in less than an hour. Upon investigation, officers located two firearms inside the restaurant and one in Welch’s car.
During the election cycle, Comet Ping Pong found itself ensconced in one of the conspiracy theories that ran rampant over the course of the presidential campaign. The owner, its employees, and surrounding businesses have been harassed by social media attacks and even death threats as a result.
The conspiracy, referred to as “pizzagate,” is this: Comet Ping Pong was accused via a slew of fake news articles of running a child sex ring on behalf of presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. The pizzeria and nearby businesses received dozens of sinister phone calls, one involving the threat of being subjected to a firing squad. Children of both Comet Ping Pong employees and patrons were also threatened by various fake news stories circulating online. Ultimately, the owner of the restaurant contacted the FBI, D.C. police, Facebook, and other social media venues in an attempt to scrub the internet of these dangerous, fallacious stories.
According to reports, Welch wandered into the Comet Ping Pong kitchen “presumably looking for the alleged tunnels” where children would have been tortured and concealed. Bradley Graham, co-owner of nearby bookstore Politics and Prose, tells the Post that a Comet Ping Pong employee has likely supplied the information regarding Welch’s movements inside the restaurant. The bookstore, a D.C. landmark, has also received threats, most chillingly by phone.
Graham’s hope is 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 and trace the menacing phone calls.”
“We’re all rather shaken,” he added.