A California man has been arrested and charged with arson three weeks after prosecutors say he set fire to the Washington, D.C., pizza shop at the center of the far-right “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory.
Federal prosecutors arrested and charged Ryan Jaselskis, 22, with one count of arson in connection to the fire at Comet Ping Pong on Jan. 23, the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department said Thursday.
The fire was extinguished before police arrived on scene and there were no reported injuries. The incident sent the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives on a manhunt to find the suspected arsonist.
U.S. Park Police arrested Jaselskis earlier this month after federal prosecutors say he climbed over the fence around the Washington Monument, NBC Washington reported. The chase between police and the suspect was caught on camera.
Jaselskis is accused of using lighter fluid to set curtains at the pizza shop ablaze, though prosecutors did not disclose a motive in court documents, The Washington Post reported.
An unnamed restaurant employee told ABC 7 News that the arsonist left a diaper and baby food behind after setting the fire. The news outlet characterized this as a nod to the “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory, which claimed that Comet Ping Pong harbored a child sex trafficking ring run by Hillary Clinton and her presidential campaign chairman John Podesta.
The false story spread through right-leaning political circles, despite the lack of evidence supporting it. Spurred by the rumor, a North Carolina man brought an assault rifle into the restaurant to check out the claim.
While officials haven’t released a motive for the fire, Jaselskis’ parents reportedly posted a YouTube video on Jan. 23 that suggested that a Satanic global pedophile ring, led by Clinton and other celebrities, ran the world, according to NBC News.
The video, titled “Melissa Video,” has since been deleted.
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