U.S. News

Police arrest gunman who opened fire in DC pizza shop while 'self-investigating' baseless conspiracy theory

Edgar Maddison Welch, 28 of Salisbury, N.C., surrenders to police Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016, in Washington.
Sathi Soma via AP

A North Carolina man who claimed he was investigating a fake news report that a Washington pizzeria was involved in a child-sex ring was arrested after opening fire in the restaurant, authorities said.

Police said Edgar Maddison Welch, 28, of Salisbury, fired into the floor of the Comet Ping Pong restaurant on Sunday, but no one was hurt. Customers immediately fled.

Welch told police he had gone to the pizzeria to "self-investigate" a fake news conspiracy theory which claims that Comet was at the center of a child-sex ring operated by Hillary Clinton and her campaign chairman, John Podesta.

Lee Elmore, a bartender at Comet who said he didn't see a gun himself, told NBC 4 Washington that people started to panic as the man walked to the back of the restaurant. Elmore described his demeanor as "bizarre," saying he "didn't make any eye contact, didn't talk with anybody."

James Alefantis, owner of Comet, said Monday he hopes that people who have been "fanning these flames will take a moment to contemplate what happened here today and to stop right away."

"What happened today demonstrates that promoting false and reckless conspiracy theories do come with consequences," Alefantis said in a statement, adding that the conspiracy theories about his establishment "are completely and entirely false."

The Associated Press reported that police seized a Colt AR-15 rifle, a .38-caliber Colt handgun, a shotgun and a folding knife.

Politico reported that the son of retired Gen. Mike Flynn, Trump's pick for national security adviser, embraced the fake news conspiracy theory.

@mflynnJR: Until #Pizzagate proven to be false, it'll remain a story. The left seems to forget #PodestaEmails and the many "coincidences" tied to it.

The conspiracy theory known as "Pizzagate" is based on an unconfirmed hacked email published on WikiLeaks in which Podesta asked Comet about hosting a Clinton fundraiser. Conspiracy theorists then made baseless allegations that the pizzeria was part of a child-trafficking ring.

— NBC News and The Associated Press contributed to this report.