‘Pizzagate’ gunman recorded ‘goodbye’ video message to his family
Edgar Maddison Welch, who was sentenced to four years in prison on Thursday, recorded a "goodbye" video on his way from North Carolina to Washington, D.C., where he entered Comet Ping Pong restaurant last December with a firearm and opened fire into a closet while investigating a discredited conspiracy theory.
The U.S. attorney played the video, which was recorded in his car during the six-or-so-hour trip north, in the courtroom during Welch’s sentencing hearing. Although the ambient noise drowns out a lot of his voice, he can be heard saying, "Girls, I love you all more than anything in this world."
Welch is father to two daughters. His defense attorney said that he is an "extremely devoted father" during the sentencing hearing.
"I can’t let you grow up in a world that’s so corrupted by evil. I have to at least stand up for you and for other children just like you," Welch says in the recording. "Like I always told you we have a duty to protect people who can’t protect themselves … I hope you understand that one day."
The lead prosecuting attorney, Demian Ahn, described the video that Welch recorded as a "goodbye" message.
"He’s calm, he’s deliberate … in a calculated manner, he says goodbye to his family," said Ahn.
According to prosecutors, Welch drove to D.C. to investigate a conspiracy theory that had been peddled on numerous websites and shared on social media accounts. No legitimate law enforcement agency ever took the claims seriously, but at the time, Welch described it as a "sick" conspiracy involving the restaurant, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and a child-trafficking operation, which became known as "Pizzagate."
While the conspiracy was fake, his actions had real-world consequences. He terrified customers and staff when he entered the restaurant with an AR-15 rifle to look for so-called evidence. Patrons were rushed outside as he roamed around the restaurant looking for proof.
He then tried to open a locked closet door with a butter knife and when he couldn’t do that, he fired shots at the lock, causing physical damage to the interior of the pizza joint. At one point, he encountered a shocked employee who was returning from outside. Eventually he put his weapons down, was arrested and charged under federal and local statutes.
The persecutor said that Welch was inspired by an "internet conspiracy theory" and "traumatized" everyone in the pizza place that afternoon.
He pleaded guilty in March and was sentenced 48 months for the D.C. crime and 24 months for the federal crime to run concurrently for a total of four years, as well as 36 months of supervised release. In addition, he was ordered to pay $5,744.33 in restitution to Comet Ping Pong owner James Alefantis’ company for damages.
Alefantis told the court that "so many" people had suffered because of Welch’s actions.
"I will now try to rebuild my life and my name and my business and I think that there are many other people who have pushed this conspiracy theory who have created an enormous amount of harm to all of our community," said Alefantis after the sentencing hearing.