Edgar Maddison Welch reaches plea agreement in D.C. shooting
Published 12:47 am Thursday, March 16, 2017
By Shavonne Walker
Edgar Maddison Welch, a Salisbury man accused of firing an assault rifle inside a Washington, D.C., pizza restaurant, has reached a plea agreement with federal prosecutors, authorities said Wednesday.
The plea deal will be finalized on March 24, according to Jelahn Stewart, special counsel for professional development for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of Columbia.
She said the terms of the plea deal have not been “committed to paper.”
The Washington Post reported that Welch is expected to plead guilty, though it could be to fewer or lesser charges.
The 28-year-old told police he drove from Salisbury to Comet Ping Pong restaurant in northwest Washington on Dec. 4 to investigate rumors of a child sex ring he believed was operating there.
He walked into the restaurant about 3 p.m. with a loaded AR-15 assault rifle and a loaded .38-caliber revolver. The restaurant was filled with customers and employees. As he moved toward the back of the restaurant, customers fled the business for a nearby fire station.
He fired his weapons several times inside the restaurant, police said. When an unsuspecting employee came from a back freezer outside the restaurant, Welch is said to have pointed the rifle at the employee, who then ran from the restaurant.
He told investigators he went to the restaurant to investigate Pizzagate, the unfounded rumors linking Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to the site of a child sex-trafficking ring.
He said he read about the child sex-trafficking ring on the internet, heard about it on the radio and heard about it from other people. Welch said he searched inside the restaurant, found a locked door and tried to force it open with a butter knife. When he could not get the door open, he fired shots at the lock with his rifle.
He finally walked out of the restaurant with his hands in the air after he was convinced there was no sex ring operating inside. He left the rifle and revolver inside the restaurant. He was instructed to walk backward toward law enforcement and was put in handcuffs, an FBI agent said in court documents.
Investigators obtained Welch’s cellphone records that showed “Welch had been contemplating a violent confrontation at the restaurant since at least Dec. 1, 2016,” court documents said.
During an interview after his Dec. 4 arrest, police obtained a warrant to search Welch’s cellphone. He had been searching Youtube pages and Pizzagate prior to traveling to Washington.
An affidavit said he also sent text messages to two friends on Dec. 1 asking them to look at Youtube videos regarding Pizzagate. In one message, Welch said “the world is too afraid to act and I’m too stubborn not to.”
He said he was raiding a “pedo ring” and possibly sacrificing the lives of a few for the lives of many.
Welch was charged with assault with a dangerous weapon, carrying a pistol without a license, and transporting a firearm with the intent to commit an offense across state lines.