CRIME

Feds Escalate Charges Against Edgar Welch, Alleged 'Pizzagate' Shooter

Federal investigators have tacked on two more charges since the initial indictment.

Federal investigators have tacked on two more charges against the North Carolina man who is accused of carrying out an armed attack on a popular D.C. pizza restaurant that he said was motivated by an unfounded conspiracy theory about Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

On Thursday, the U.S. attorney for D.C. charged Edgar M. Welch with assault with a dangerous weapon and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime. He initially faced a single federal charge of “interstate transportation of a firearm with intent to commit an offense” on Tuesday. Each charge carries a maximum of 10 years in prison, plus fines.

Welch had originally faced four local firearms-related charges, which prosecutors dropped on Tuesday as they moved to try him in federal court.   

The 28-year-old Welch walked into Comet Ping Pong restaurant on the afternoon of Dec. 4, armed with a loaded AR-15 and a loaded revolver, according to the federal complaint. He fired several shots inside that didn’t hit anyone, investigators said, before leaving and surrendering to police waiting outside.

Welch had been “contemplating a violent confrontation at the restaurant” for three days and tried to recruit at least two other accomplices, an FBI agent said in a sworn statement, citing cell phone records. 

Comet Ping Pong had been the subject of a false conspiracy theory that claimed Clinton and her campaign chair, John Podesta, ran a secret child sex trafficking ring in the back of the restaurant.

James Alefantis, Comet Ping Pong’s owner, told The New York Times in November that he and his employees had received “endless” death threats and other messages over the baseless conspiracy. Authorities believe conspiracy theorists targeted the restaurant after a hack of Podesta’s emails showed that he had corresponded with Alefantis about hosting a fundraiser for Clinton.

Welch reportedly explained his mission in text messages to a friend he allegedly tried to recruit: 

“Raiding a pedo ring, possibly saraficing [sic] the lives of a few for the lives of many. Standing up against a corrupt system that kidnaps, tortures and rapes babies and children in our own backyard ... The world is too afraid to act and I’m too stubborn not to.” 

Welch already had an arrest record for drug and alcohol offenses, according to the Charlotte Observer. Shortly after his Dec. 4 arrest, he told The New York Times that he made the 350-mile drive to D.C. to get a “closer look” at the restaurant. He said he ultimately regretted how he handled it. 

Read the full complaint against Welch below.

This story has been updated to reflect the two new charges against Edgar Welch.

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