A gunman was arrested and charged with assault with a dangerous weapon on Sunday, Dec. 4, after bringing a rifle into the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Washington, D.C. to “self-investigate” a fake child-trafficking story that had been published prior to the presidential election.
Washington’s Metropolitan Police Department said in a statement that the gunman was identified as Edgar Maddison Welch, 28, of Salisbury, North Carolina, CNN reported.
Welch allegedly pointed the assault rifle at a restaurant employee, who fled and notified the authorities. The police also seized a handgun and a shotgun — one of which was found inside the restaurant; the other in the suspect’s car — but they did not specify the locations, The Washington Post reported.
When investigators interviewed Welch, he revealed that he came to the pizzeria to “self-investigate” the conspiracy theory “Pizza Gate,” which claimed Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and her campaign aide John Podesta led a child-trafficking ring at Comet Ping Pong, Yahoo reported.
The “Pizza Gate” theory, which was published shortly before Election Day, was one of the fake news stories that may have influenced voter decisions prior to the election. The fake news stories have even caught the attention of Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, who has promised to work on tools to prevent the circulation of false information on the platform, according to The New York Times.
"What happened today demonstrates that promoting false and reckless conspiracy theories comes with consequences,” James Alefantis, owner of Comet Ping Pong, told CNN. “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."