WASHINGTON — The D.C. pizza parlor central to the “PizzaGate” conspiracy theory was targeted by an arsonist late Wednesday night, fire officials said.
Comet Ping Pong began receiving phone and social media threats in 2016 after owner James Alefantis appeared in one of the swiped emails from Hillary Clinton campaign manager John Podesta’s account, discussing a campaign fundraiser. Conspiracy theorists posit that the emails contain coded messages discussing a child sex ring at the family restaurant.
On Dec. 4, 2016, Edgar Maddison Welch, 28, of Salisbury, N.C., entered the pizza parlor and fired three shots from a rifle. He told police he wanted to investigate the sex-trafficking allegations, and tried to recruit friends to join his trip by encouraging them to watch videos about the conspiracy theory. In 2017, Welch pleaded guilty to a federal charge of interstate transport of firearms and a D.C. assault with a deadly weapon charge. He was sentenced to four years behind bars.
Late on Wednesday, a fire broke out in the back of the restaurant that spread to curtains before employees were able to put out the flames with an extinguisher.
Fire investigators determined that the blaze was intentionally set, with matches and lighter fluid reportedly left at the scene.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives today circulated a wanted poster from the Washington D.C. Arson-Explosives Task Force of a white male with blonde hair and facial hair, estimated to be 25 to 30 years old, wearing jeans and a blue-and-white varsity-style jacket.
Anyone with information about the identity of the suspect is asked to contact D.C. Fire Investigator James Taylor at (202) 904-6511. The ATF can also receive tips at (888) ATF-FIRE.
Alefantis said in a statement that “customers and staff were safe at all times and no one was hurt.”