DC Police say they have a suspect in custody in the incident at Comet Ping Pong Sunday afternoon: 28-year-old Edgar Welch of Salisbury, North Carolina. Police say he walked into the restaurant on Connecticut Avenue in northwest Washington carrying a long rifle and a hand gun.
Comet Ping Pong has been the target of threats and conspiracy theories recently, and up until Sunday afternoon that’s all they’ve been: threats. But then at about 3:00, police say 28-year-old Edgar Maddison Welch of Salisbury, North Carolina walked into the restaurant carrying a long rifle and a hand gun. He told police he wanted to “self-investigate” the so-called “pizza gate.”
“There will be a time and a place to address how and why this happened in greater detail but for now I will simply say we should all condemn the efforts of some people to spread malicious and utterly false accusations about Comet Ping Pong,” says James Alefantis, the owner.
The accusation, that Comet Ping Pong’s basement, which they reportedly don’t even have, is the center of a child sex slave ring, organized by Hillary Clinton and a campaign manager. “These stories are completely false, what happened today shows that promoting false conspiracy theories comes with consequences,” says Alefantis.
The terrified people inside the restaurant at the time say those consequences became all too real for them. Sharif Silmi was inside with his family when the armed man walked inside. “The man entered the restaurant and headed straight to the back room with a shot gun,” says Silmi. “We thought it might be a security guard but one of the Comet employees very discreetly told me there was a gunman and everyone went outside.”
The customers ran to nearby restaurants, like the Red Fox or Banana Leaf to seek refuge, waiting on police to arrive.
Police arrived quickly, and, half an hour or so later, Silmi snapped a picture of Welch being arrested.
Another customer, Vivek Jain, also watched it all unfold. “We saw a man which his hands raised in the air walking backwards and was arrested. I was thinking this was probably all that fake news, and there are lots of crazy people out there with guns, this is a consequence of a lot of ignorance.”
Police say there is evidence fired his weapon inside the restaurant. They also say he may have had another weapon in his car nearby.
The area was shut down for hours while police searched for any other potential threats.
In the end, no one was hurt. Welch has been arrested and charged with assault with a dangerous weapon.
Alefantis says the support from the community has been overwhelming and he will not let this keep them from serving the community. The restaurant will, however, be closed Monday and likely reopen on Tuesday. Police say they will be working with Comet Ping Pong and other nearby restaurants to ensure they are safe. If they request additional security, DC Police say they will accommodate them.
Numerous people in the neighborhood and on Twitter have voiced their support for Comet Ping Pong, and they say this will only make them eat at the restaurant and support them more.