March 15, 2017
WASHINGTON — A man who police say fired an assault weapon inside a Washington pizza shop as he sought to investigate phony rumors of child sex trafficking has reached a plea deal with federal prosecutors.
At a status hearing Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Washington, lawyers said they have reached a plea deal in principle for 28-year-old Edgar Maddison Welch of Salisbury, North Carolina. They said they needed some more time to complete the paperwork, and U.S. District Judge Ketanji B. Jackson scheduled a plea hearing for March 24.
Authorities say Welch fired multiple shots, causing panic inside the Comet Ping Pong restaurant Dec. 4, after driving from North Carolina to investigate a viral conspiracy theory – dubbed "Pizzagate" online – about high-profile Democrats harboring child sex slaves, with the pizza shop connected in some way.
Court documents indicate he entered the pizzeria restaurant carrying a .38 revolver in a holster on his hip and the AR-15 assault weapon across his chest. Authorities say he fired at a locked door as he searched for evidence of hidden rooms or tunnels, as described in the conspiracy theories.
According to court documents, Welch "surrendered peacefully when he found no evidence that underage children were being harbored in the restaurant." No one was hurt.
Welch's parents have said their son's mood turned for the worse last year and he began having nightmares after he hit a 13-year-old pedestrian with his car in October.
Terms of the plea were not discussed. Welch's public defender, Dani Jahn, declined comment after the hearing. The U.S. Attorney's Office in Washington, which is prosecuting the case, also declined comment.
Welch was charged with interstate transportation of a firearm, assault with a dangerous weapon and possessing a firearm during a crime of violence. He faces up to 10 years in prison.
Welch, dressed in an orange jail jumpsuit, did not speak during the hearing, which lasted less than 10 minutes.
The U.S. Attorney's Office in Washington, which is prosecuting the case, also declined comment.