WASHINGTON, D.C. - A North Carolina man who fired an assault rifle multiple times inside a pizza restaurant in the nation’s capital while he claimed he was investigating the internet conspiracy theory known as “pizzagate” will face federal charges.
Edgar Maddison Welch of Salisbury, North Carolina, appeared briefly in Superior Court in the District of Columbia on Tuesday.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Sonali Patel told a judge that prosecutors are dismissing the local charges because they have obtained a federal arrest warrant. Patel didn’t detail the federal charges. It’s not clear when Welch will appear in federal court.
The 28-year-old Welch has been in jail since the Dec. 4 shooting at Comet Ping Pong, which has been falsely rumored to be the site of a child sex trafficking ring run by prominent Democrats.
Welch’s parents were in court, but declined to speak to a reporter.
Police have said Welch acknowledged coming to “self-investigate” the conspiracy theory and surrendered “when he found no evidence that underage children were being harbored in the restaurant.” No one was hurt.
In an interview with the New York Times, Welch expressed regret.
“I just wanted to do some good and went about it the wrong way,” Welch said.
Welch, 28, told the newspaper he started driving to Washington from his Salisbury, North Carolina, home intending only to give the Comet Ping Pong pizza restaurant a “closer look.” But while on the way, he said he felt his “heart breaking over the thought of innocent people suffering.”
Welch would not say why he brought an AR-15 into the pizza shop and fired it, the newspaper reported.
Asked what he thought when he found there were no children in the restaurant, Welch said: “The intel on this wasn’t 100 percent.” But he would not completely dismiss the online claims while talking to the newspaper, conceding only that there were no children “inside that dwelling.”
Welch appears to have lived an aimless life that became turbulent in the weeks before he was drawn to the nation’s capital by a fake news story.
Friends and family say he is a well-meaning father of two girls who wanted to be a firefighter. But he also unnerved some with his religious fervor and sometimes had trouble detaching himself from the internet.