Comet Ping Pong reopens following 'Pizzagate' shooting scare
WASHINGTON - Comet Ping Pong reopened Tuesday afternoon following Sunday's incident where a gunman fired an assault rifle inside of the restaurant as he attempted to "self-investigate" a conspiracy theory known online as "Pizzagate."
Police say 28-year-old Edgar Maddison Welch drove to Washington D.C from his home in North Carolina. When Welch arrived the pizza restaurant, police say he fired an AR-15 assault rifle multiple times inside, but later walked out with his hands up and unarmed, leaving his weapons inside. No one was injured.
The D.C. pizzeria opened its doors back to customers just after 5 p.m. Tuesday.
"I'd like to say that we have been completely overwhelmed and incredibly touched by the support of our community here in Washington and around the world," said Comet Ping Pong owner James Alefantis. "We look forward to serving you for many years to come."
According to court documents, Welch told police "he had read online that the Comet restaurant was harboring child sex slaves and that he wanted to see for himself if they were there." He said he "was armed to help rescue them" and "surrendered peacefully when he found no evidence that underage children were being harbored in the restaurant."
The bizarre rumors began with a leaked email referencing Hillary Clinton and sinister interpretations of references to pizza parties. It morphed into fake online news stories about a child sex trafficking ring run by prominent Democrats operating out of the Washington, D.C., pizza joint.
Since the conspiracy theories began to spread on social media, the restaurant and its employees have been harassed online -- with one social post releasing the personal information of at least 20 employees online.
Since Sunday's incident, residents have left flowers and signs in front of the building showing their support. An increased police presence could also be seen in the northwest neighborhood.
"My employees are an incredible group of young people and they inspire me every day and it's really an inspiration for, I think, everyone in this country," said Alefantis on Tuesday. "These are people who are hardworking, incredibly wonderful, generous people who work closely with each other, the community, the customers. I could not be more proud of them. I could not be more proud of our customers."
Welch was charged on multiple counts, including assault with a dangerous weapon. Authorities recovered the AR-15 assault rifle and a handgun from the restaurant, court paperwork said. Police said an additional weapon was recovered from his vehicle.
Welch has been ordered held until at least Thursday when he will have a court hearing.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.