WASHINGTON, Dec. 5 (UPI) -- A North Carolina man was arrested in Washington, D.C., Sunday after he walked into a popular pizza shop with an assault rifle intending to investigate an outlandish internet conspiracy theory about Hillary Clinton.
Edgar Maddison Welch, 28, entered Comet Ping Pong Sunday afternoon intending to investigate the "Pizzagate" satanic child sex ring conspiracy, pointed his gun at an employee and apparently fired it into the ground before he was arrested about 45 minutes later, police said. Nobody was injured.
Welch was arraigned Monday on four crimes, including felony assault with a deadly weapon and carrying a gun without a license outside a home or business. Magistrate Judge Joseph Beshouri ordered Welch to be detained without bail until Thursday, at least, when a preliminary hearing is scheduled in the case.
Comet Ping Pong has been deluged with visitors who want to check out the baseless "Pizzagate" conspiracy theory, which posits that Hillary Clinton and her campaign manager, John Podesta, are involved in a satanic child sex trafficking ring based in the pizzeria's basement.
"They putting a lot of curses and spells over the city," a woman who declined to give her name told WUSA-TV in November. "All this underground tunnel that helps them take the kids and transport them back and forth so they can do these rituals."
The rumor is not based on anything factual but was nonetheless pushed by several conspiracy-friendly media outlets and spawned a since-shuttered channel on Reddit. The restaurant has been pounded with threats and unsubstantiated stories about trafficking there for weeks. Employees, the restaurant's owners and even nearby businesses have been the target of harassment and death threats.
The restaurant's owners and employees are baffled by the whole thing, said Comet owner James Alefantis, if for no other reason than the restaurant does not even have a basement -- which pokes a large hole in the conspiracy theory.
The restaurants' owners supported Clinton during the presidential election, which they think may have played a role in the development of the fake story, considering even those close to President-elect Donald Trump have half-bought into the rumor.
"What happened today demonstrates that promoting false and reckless conspiracy theories comes with consequences," Alefantis said. "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."