The gunman behind “Pizzagate,” who turned up at the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in New Jersey, may have been motivated by a fake news story from InfoWars, which claimed the restaurant harbors a pedophile ring run by the Democratic Party.
Edgar Maddison Welch, 28, of Salisbury, North Carolina, was arrested Sunday outside of the Pizzagate restaurant according to The Daily Beast. Witnesses claim he traveled through the restaurant with an AR-15, firing shots and hunting for an alleged network of tunnels where children are hidden and tortured.
One employee, who did not notice Welch carrying a gun, said guests became alarmed as he approached the back of the Pizzagate restaurant.
“His demeanor was bizarre, in that if you come in to a place to eat, you ask for a host or grab a seat at the bar. Didn’t make any eye contact, didn’t talk with anybody,” employee Lee Elmore said, according to NBC Washington.
Store owner James Alefantis released a statement Monday morning condemning the Pizzagate conspiracy theorists who he says are to blame for the attack.
“We should all condemn the efforts of some to spread these malicious and utterly false accusations about our restaurant, Comet Ping Pong,” said the statement. “What happened today 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 today, and stop promoting these falsehoods right away.”
“A lot of us saw he had a gun and we all started getting our families out,” said witness Sharif Silmi, who was eating in the restaurant with his wife and three children when Welch entered. “The staff came and got us.”
Dozens of officers responded to the scene along with a helicopter, reported NBC Washington. Welch was arrested and charged with assault with a gun. Along with his assault rifle, a handgun was also retrieved from his person.
Matt Carr, owner of the Little Red Cafe next door to Comet Ping Pong, at the center of Pizzagate, said employees from next door came into his business and told him to lock the doors, because a man had entered the restaurant with a gun and went straight for the back. Between 20 and 30 people hid in his store, avoiding windows for approximately an hour, the Washingtonian reported, until Alefantis texted Carr that the threat was over.
“There was a dad with his three-year-old daughter. I was just trying to monitor the situation, and I saw police officers hiding behind their cars waiting to see what was going to happen,” he said.
Carr has been harassed online in recent weeks as a result of his business’s proximal location to the conspiracy site. Last week, he said, an anonymous caller to the store said he wanted to “line them up in a firing squad.” He’s considered a lawyer to help him with the harassment.
“It’s just a lot of money to spend for a little small business,” Carr said. “I really hope the FBI can do something about all what’s online. I think it’s really dangerous to have all this false information out there.”
— Michael G Flynn???????? (@mflynnJR) December 5, 2016
Last week on their Facebook page, Comet Ping Pong announced that it would be adding security for music shows after the Pizzagate incident.
“Comet Ping Pong, like any respectable venue, is dedicated to creating a safe and inviting space for all of our concert-goers. There have been no hostile situations at the venue, and we do not anticipate any altercations as much of the harassment has occurred online, but as a precaution we now have security and police present at every show,” it said, according to theWashingtonian.
InfoWars, which is run by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, has been the host of a number of fake conspiracy stories throughout the election season and as recently as after the attack, released a video continuing to claim that Pizzagate is a legitimate concern, despite Tampa Bay Times fact-checking project Politifact finding no evidence that could identify it as anything more than a rumor or hoax.
[Featured Image By Sathi Soma/AP Images]