The man arrested Sunday for allegedly bringing an assault rifle into a family-friendly Washington, D.C. restaurant at the heart of a bogus and bizarre conspiracy theory targeting Hillary Clinton has a long arrest history and an avowed interest in fringe news sites.
Police identified 28-year-old Edgar Maddison Welch, of Salisbury, North Carolina, as the individual who entered Comet Ping Pong and allegedly pointed a weapon at an employee, eventually firing at least one shot. Though no one was injured and police were able to safely arrest Welch and charge him with assault with a dangerous weapon, he had traveled to the restaurant by car with an AR-15, Colt .38 handgun, folding knife and shotgun, police told the Washington Post.
Welch brought this mini-weapons trove to the popular pizza restaurant to “self-investigate” an elaborate conspiracy theory alleging that Democratic Party power players, including Clinton, run a child sex trafficking room from its basement. Though there is no evidence to substantiate this far-fetched story, it has become popular on far-right message boards and fake news sites.
Welch appears to be fan of some of the conspiracy sites that pushed the intertwining false stories that came to be known as “Pizzagate.” According to a Facebook page that appears to belong to him listed under the name Maddison Welch, he has “liked” both InfoWars and editor Alex Jones, a fringe radio host who President-elect Donald Trump once praised for his “amazing reputation.” Jones believes a number of national tragedies, including the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting and Boston Marathon bombing, were “false flag” operations carried out by the government to consolidate its power and curtail Second Amendment rights.
Jones and InfoWars have heavily promoted the “Pizzagate” conspiracy, pushing articles and videos claiming that they’ve uncovered a “worldwide” pedophilia network and alleging that emails hacked from Clinton campaign chair John Podesta’s emails contain code words related to the clandestine group.
Other “likes” on Welch’s Facebook page include “End Times Headlines” and “Godshealer7 End Time Prophecy.” His Facebook profile photos include one of him holding an assault rifle. An Edgar Maddison Welch has been registered as a Republican in North Carolina’s Rowan County since 2006, and archives from the Salisbury Post note that Edgar Maddison Welch was accepted at Cape Fear Community College in 2007. His Facebook page claims that he previously worked at the Locke Township Fire Department.
Locke Fire Chief Rusty Alexander told TPM that Welch volunteered at the department for about six months in 2012. Alexander said he had little memory of Welch, who “wasn’t around much when he was here.”
Edgar Maddison Welch/Facebook
Other biographical information available online has been used to discredit Welch and support the outlandish claim that he was actually a Democratic plant sent armed to the restaurant to discredit other “Pizzagate”-related conspiracies and the news sites that spread them.
Jack Posbiec, who describes himself on Twitter as special projects director for a group called Citizens4Trump, shared a tweet on Sunday claiming that Welch was an “actor.”
CONFIRMED: Comet Pizza Gunman Edgar Maddison Welch is an ACTOR pic.twitter.com/HVF9QMXDsd
— Jack Posobiec (@JackPosobiec) December 5, 2016
As proof, he included a screenshot of Welch’s page on the Internet Movie Database, an online directory of information related to films and TV shows. Welch was apparently a crew member on several low-budget horror movies in the late 2000s, earning credits as a production assistant on “The Mill” and as a “raver/victim” in a film called “The Bleeding.”
Individuals can create and fill out their own IMDB listings, and Welch’s limited filmography does not suggest that he was ever a working actor.
Welch also has a history of erratic behavior and a lengthy rap sheet. The Charlotte Observer reported that Welch’s arrest record in North Carolina dates back to 2007 and includes a number of drug and alcohol offenses. These include charges of possession of up to half an ounce of marijuana, possession of controlled substances, driving while intoxicated, and driving with an open container of alcohol.
In October, Welch hit a 13-year-old with his car, causing serious injuries to the child’s head, torso and leg, according to WBTV. Sean Lankford, friend of victim Kenyatta Belton, told the news station that “he had the whole road to turn into” and “could have avoided” hitting him. It’s unclear if he faced criminal charges for the incident.
Welch is expected to appear in court Monday afternoon for his charge in the Comet Ping Pong case, McClatchy reported.