Before arriving armed last week at a Washington D.C. pizza restaurant to investigate a bogus online conspiracy theory, a North Carolina man tried to recruit friends to join him and appeared to bid farewell to his family in case he was killed in the course of his mission.
A federal complaint filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia spells out exactly how Edgar Maddison Welch arrived at his decision to drive from the town of Salisbury, North Carolina to Washington’s Comet Ping Pong to personally look into “pizzagate,” a conspiracy claiming that the restaurant is the hub of a sex-trafficking ring.
According to a sworn affidavit from FBI agent Justin Holgate, Welch first became interested in “pizzagate” on Dec. 1, when he looked through YouTube pages about the conspiracy theory and at the restaurant’s own website.
Records Holgate obtained from Welch’s cell phone show that he then reached out to two friends, identified in the affidavit as “B” and “C,” encouraging them to check out the YouTube videos as well. After a call with “C,” Welch received a text asking if they were “going to save the Indians from the pipeline,” an apparent reference to the Dakota Access Pipeline currently under construction near the Sioux Standing Rock reservation.
Welch texted back “way more important, much higher stakes” and “pizzagate,” according to the affidavit.
The cell phone records Welch asked “C” the following day if he had Army friends who would be “down for the cause.” When “C” asked him to explain what exactly the cause was, Welch explained that he wanted to rescue children and would be willing to sacrifice his life to do so.
“Raiding a pedo ring, possibly sacraficing [sic] the lives of a few for the lives of many,” he wrote in a text, as quoted in the affidavit. “Standing up against a corrupt system that kidnaps, tortures and rapes babies and children in our own backyard… defending the next generation of kids, our kids, from ever having to experience this kind of evil themselves[.] I’m sorry bro, but I’m tired of turning the channel and hoping someone does something and being thankful it’s not my family. One day it will be our families. The world is too afraid to act and I’m too stubborn not to[.]”
Welch ultimately left Salisbury alone early on the morning of Dec. 4, armed with an AR-15 assault rifle, Colt .38 caliber revolver, another shotgun and a folding knife. According to the affidavit, he recorded an emotional video on his cell phone while driving in which he told his family members that he loved them and that he hoped to be able to “tell [them] again.”
“If not, don’t ever forget it,” he told his loved ones in the video, as quoted in the affidavit.
Hours later, he entered Comet Ping Pong armed with two of the weapons and allegedly pointed a gun at a restaurant employee. He was arrested outside the building after conducting his investigation of the premises and finding no evidence that Democratic operatives were running a pedophilia ring out of the basement, as the YouTube conspiracy videos he watched had claimed.
Welch now faces up to 10 years in prison on a federal charge of transporting a firearm across state lines with intent to commit a crime.
Read the full federal complaint below: