Pizza shop gunman latched onto internet


Associated Press

SALISBURY, N.C.

Before he was charged with firing an assault rifle inside a Washington restaurant, where he had been drawn by an online hoax, Edgar Maddison Welch was known as a well-meaning father of two girls who unnerved some with his religious fervor and sometimes had trouble detaching himself from the internet.

Police say he came to the Comet Ping Pong pizza restaurant Sunday on a self-imposed mission to investigate a false account of a child- sex ring that had spread through fake internet news stories.

For years, he had appeared to lead an aimless life of things left unfinished: jobs, college and even marriage. Along the way, he was convicted of drunken driving and minor drug charges.

And in the weeks before his Washington arrest, there were signs of turbulence.

In late October, the 28-year-old struck a teenage pedestrian with his car in his hometown of Salisbury, requiring the boy to be airlifted to a hospital, according to a police report that said he wasn’t immediately charged. More recently, days before he drove to Washington, he was dropped from the rolls of a volunteer fire department.

But the one constant, friends and family say, was his love for his two young daughters.

“He’s a father and a very loving man, very concerned about children,” said his aunt Tajuana Tadlock, adding: “He’s not a vigilante, by no check of the words.”

In Washington, court documents say Welch fired an AR-15 rifle multiple times inside the restaurant but later exited with his hands up. He told police “he had read online that the Comet restaurant was harboring child sex slaves,” and he wanted to investigate. He said he surrendered when he found no signs of children being held. Welch faces charges including assault with a dangerous weapon.

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