Gunman goes to pizzeria to ‘investigate’ election-related conspiracy theory, police say
UPDATE: By all means, read Kevin Drum’s post on this story.
His investigation included firing off a couple of rounds. Fake news is information vandalism and can have serious consequences, but those who produce fake news don’t care, since they seem to be sociopaths in terms of having any sense of responsibility for the consequences of their actions. Sociopaths are not that uncommon, after all. (It’s estimated that there are 12 million in the US, and obviously some have drifted into writing fake news.)
Faiz Siddiqui and Susan Svrluga report in the Washington Post:
A North Carolina man was arrested Sunday after he walked into a popular pizza restaurant in Northwest Washington carrying an assault rifle and fired one or more shots, D.C. police said. The man told police he had come to the restaurant to “self-investigate” a false election-related conspiracy theory involving Hillary Clinton that spread online during her presidential campaign.
The incident caused panic, with several businesses going into lockdown as police swarmed the neighborhood after receiving the call shortly before 3 p.m.
Police said 28-year-old Edgar Maddison Welch, of Salisbury, N.C., walked in the front door of Comet Ping Pong and pointed a firearm in the direction of a restaurant employee. The employee was able to flee and notify police. Police said Welch proceeded to discharge the rifle inside the restaurant; they think that all other occupants had fled when Welch began shooting.
Welch has been charged with assault with a dangerous weapon. Police said there were no reported injuries.
Interim D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham said police arrived on the scene minutes after the first call, set up a perimeter and safely arrested Welch about 45 minutes after he entered the restaurant.
A D.C. police report made public Monday says Welch had been armed with an AR-15 assault-style rifle. The report also says police seized a Colt .38 caliber handgun and a shotgun. One of those weapons was found inside the restaurant; the other in the suspect’s car. Police did not specify the locations.
The police report also describes Welch’s arrest. Police said he surrendered shortly after officers surrounded the pizza shop and emerged with his hands raised above his head.
The report says in addition to the weapons, police seized a folding knife, a T-shirt, a hooded sweatshirt and denim blue jeans.
Vivek Jain, of Potomac, Md., was eating lunch inside Banana Leaf, a nearby Indian restaurant, when Comet patrons came rushing inside. He said Banana Leaf was locked down for about 90 minutes.
“A bunch of people ran in from Comet and said a man walked in with a gun,” Jain said.
About 45 minutes later, he said, he saw a man walking backward out into the street with his hands in the air.
“He laid down on Connecticut Avenue and he was immediately picked up by the police and taken away,” he said. . .
Continue reading. And do read the whole thing. Later in the article:
. . . James Alefantis, the owner of Comet Ping Pong, said in a statement: “What happened today demonstrates that promoting false and reckless conspiracy theories comes with consequences. 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.”
The restaurant’s owner and employees were threatened on social media in the days before the election after fake news stories circulated claiming that then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and her campaign chief were running a child sex ring from the restaurant’s backrooms. Even Michael Flynn, a retired general whom President-elect Donald Trump has tapped to advise him on national security, shared stories about another anti-Clinton conspiracy theory involving pedophilia. None of them were true. But the fake stories and threats persisted, some even aimed at children of Comet Ping Pong employees and patrons. The restaurant’s owner was forced to contact the FBI, local police, Facebook and other social-media platforms in an effort to remove the articles.
Last month, citing its policy against posting the personal information of others, Reddit banned the “pizzagate” topic.
But it didn’t stop the harassment, and nearby businesses have received threats as well, according to police. On Sunday, Washington Post reporters involved in this article were the target of online threats shortly after it posted.
Matt Carr, the owner of the Little Red Fox market and coffee shop, said his business started getting threats last weekend. They got 30 to 40 calls before they stopped answering calls from blocked numbers, he said. “One person said he wanted to line us up in front of a firing squad,” said Carr, who spent more than an hour in lockdown with his employees Sunday.
The threats were all tied to the Comet Ping Pong accusations online, he said. “There’s some old painted-over symbol on the marquee that they claim is an international symbol of pedophilia and that there are underground tunnels. . . . There’s some video on YouTube that has almost 100,000 views and talks about me, the owner of the Little Red Fox, by name.
“This was our worst fear,” he said, “that someone would read all this and come to the block with a gun. And today it happened.” . . .