An outpouring of community support for Comet Ping Pong, the restaurant that was the target of a shooting incident on Sunday. The suspect in the case, Edgar Welch, appeared in DC Superior Court on Monday to face numerous charges.
Meanwhile, supporters of the restaurant are standing their ground. Max, Truman and Caitlin knew Comet Ping Pong would be closed on Monday, but that didn’t stop them from showing up and standing outside for hours. “When we heard what happened yesterday we were just really terrified,” says Caitlin Corey. “Just really upset that this kind of vitriol has continued to hurt people.”
Dozens of other supporters joined them and stopped by throughout the day, dropping off flowers and posting signs. “We just wanted to make sure there is a face that people see that there are actually people’s lives that are impacted by this misinformation that is going out there,” says Max Ohern, another supporter.
The misinformation, an online conspiracy theory called “pizza gate.” The hoax says Hillary Clinton and her campaign aid were running a child sex ring below the restaurant. Police confirm these claims are baseless, but that wasn’t good enough for Edgar Welch. Police say Welch is the man who showed up on Sunday afternoon with a long rifle and a hand gun, to rescue the kids he thought were being held there. Welch reportedly also had another weapon in his car.
Police say Welch fired at least one shot in the crowded restaurant. He eventually surrendered and no one was hurt, but the damage has been done. “A young guy is in jail, he thought he was doing a good thing,” says Truman Braslaw, another supporter. “The people who are spreading the fake news are really responsible for endangering all of us.”
Now, we’re learning more about Welch, who is from Salisbury, North Carolina. Welch calls himself an actor, and even has a profile on IMDB. Most recently, he worked at a volunteer fire department in North Carolina.
His criminal history includes drug arrests and DWI’s, and an open case where he allegedly drove his car into a teenage pedestrian.
Welch is being held in DC jail until his next court appearance on Thursday morning. Still, businesses nearby Comet Ping Pong are very much aware of the real consequences of this fake news. “Some of the business owners asked us to come out here and talk to them,” says DC Police Chief Peter Newsham. “They’re very concerned about what happened here.”
Extra security is on hand at restaurants nearby.
The owner of Comet Ping Pong, James Alefantis, says he’s extremely grateful for all the support. They plan to open back up on Tuesday afternoon at 5pm.
Supporters have also created a day-long event on Facebook for Friday morning, encouraging people to stop by Comet and eat. They’re tweeting with hashtag #StandWithComet instead of #PizzaGate.
PIC from our live shot: