North Carolina Man Pleads Guilty to Charges In Armed Assault at Northwest Washington Pizza Restaurant
Customers, Employees Fled as He Brought Assault Rifle and Revolver Into Restaurant on Weekend Afternoon
WASHINGTON – Edgar Maddison Welch, 28, of Salisbury, N.C., pled guilty today to charges stemming from an incident in which he carried a loaded AR-15 assault rifle and a revolver into a Northwest Washington pizza restaurant, scattering employees and customers, and fired his assault rifle into a door.
The guilty plea was announced by U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips, Andrew Vale, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, and Peter Newsham, Acting Chief of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD).
Welch pled guilty in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to a federal charge of interstate transportation of a firearm and ammunition, and a District of Columbia charge of assault with a dangerous weapon. The federal charge carries a statutory maximum of 10 years in prison and the District of Columbia charge carries a statutory maximum of 10 years. Under sentencing guidelines, the parties have agreed that Welch faces a likely range of 18 to 24 months in prison for the federal charge, and 18 to 60 months for the District of Columbia charge.
The Honorable Ketanji Brown Jackson scheduled sentencing for June 22, 2017. Welch has been in custody since his arrest on the day of the incident.
According to the government’s evidence, on Sunday, December 4, 2016, Welch transported three loaded firearms, together with ammunition, from North Carolina to Washington, D.C. The firearms included a 9mm AR-15 assault rifle loaded with approximately 29 rounds of ammunition, a fully-loaded, six-shot, .38-caliber revolver, and a loaded shotgun with additional shotgun shells. He drove directly to the Comet Ping Pong restaurant on Connecticut Avenue in Northwest Washington. According to the government’s evidence, Welch was motivated, at least in part, by unfounded rumors concerning a child sex-trafficking ring that supposedly was being perpetrated at the establishment.
Upon arriving at the restaurant, Welch parked his car and armed himself. At about 3 p.m., he marched inside the restaurant, which was occupied by employees and customers, including children. He was carrying the AR-15 assault rifle and the revolver. He was carrying the AR-15 openly, with one hand on the pistol grip, and the other hand on the hand guard around the barrel, such that anyone with an unobstructed view could see the gun.
The customers and employees fled the building. At one point, Welch encountered a locked room and attempted to force open the door, first using a butter knife and then discharging his assault rifle multiple times into the door.
A few minutes later, an unaware employee entered the restaurant, carrying pizza dough. Welch saw the employee and turned toward the worker with the assault rifle, causing the worker to immediately fear he would be shot. The worker fled. Welch was left alone in the restaurant. After spending more than 20 minutes inside, he left his firearms and exited the restaurant unarmed. He was then arrested. The assault rifle and revolver were recovered inside the restaurant. A shotgun also was recovered from the defendant’s car, along with a box of shotgun ammunition.
In announcing the plea, U.S. Attorney Phillips, Assistant Director in Charge Vale, and Acting Chief Newsham commended the work of those who responded to the scene and those who investigated the case. They also acknowledged the efforts of those who worked on the case from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including Victim/Witness Advocate Yvonne Bryant, Paralegal Specialist Chela Okonji, and Arvind K. Lal, Chief of the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section, who assisted with forfeiture issues. Finally, they expressed appreciation for the work of Assistant U.S. Attorneys Demian S. Ahn and Sonali D. Patel, who are prosecuting the case.