WASHINGTON - According to court documents, the man accused of threatening a D.C. pizza restaurant with an assault rifle Sunday wanted to rescue child sex slaves he believed were being kept there.
Police say Edgar Maddison Welch, 28, drove to D.C from his home in North Carolina after reading about the online conspiracy theory known as #Pizzagate. Believers claim Hillary Clinton's campaign manager and other Democrats are involved in a child sex trafficking ring that meets at Comet Ping Pong restaurant on Connecticut Ave. NW.
Both D.C. Police and the FBI have told FOX 5 that they are aware of the claims and they are false. On Sunday, D.C. Police called Pizzagate "a fictitious online conspiracy theory."
According to court documents, Welch entered Comet Ping Pong Sunday afternoon and "swung his rifle in the direction" of an employee. Other employees exited and a brief standoff ensued until the suspect surrendered.
Police said that Welch "stated that 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 stated he was armed to help rescue them. He surrendered peacefully when he found no evidence that underage children were being harbored in the restaurant."
FOX 5 was in court for his arraignment Monday. He's facing charges including assault with a dangerous weapon, carrying a pistol without a license and unlawful discharge of a firearm. He's being held without bond until a hearing on Thursday where a decision will be made on whether he'll be held until his trial.
Comet Ping Pong was closed Monday after the incident. A woman stopped by with flowers, a drawing from her son and a sign that read, "We love our neighbors."
"I think the only way we can push back against this darkness we're seeing right now where people are in the midst of so much hatred and so much suspicion and so much fear is to stand up," said Meighan Stone. "There are more people that care about our community and that believe we can live together in respect and unity than not. We just have to start being as visible and as loud. Not loud in anger, loud in love."
Other area businesses have also been implicated online in the Pizzagate conspiracy theory and have received threats by phone and online.
"The whole saga of Pizzagate and all the allegations are just so bizarre," said Bradley Graham, owner of Politics and Pose bookstore. "The fact it's gotten to this point it's just unbelievable. We had worried that the attacks might escalate from verbal barrage online to menacing phone calls to something physical. And the fact that now that's happening is cause for even more concern."