North Carolina Man Sentenced to Four-Year Prison Term For 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, 29, of Salisbury, N.C., was sentenced today to four years in prison on 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 sentencing 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, Chief of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD).
Welch pled guilty on March 24, 2017, 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. He was sentenced by the Honorable Ketanji Brown Jackson. Following his prison term, Welch will be placed on three years of supervised release. While on supervised release, Welch is to receive a mental health assessment; he also was ordered to stay away from the restaurant while on release. Additionally, he must pay $5,744 in restitution for property damage he caused during the incident.
In sentencing the defendant, the judge declared that “the extent of the recklessness in this case is breathtaking,” adding that it was only through “sheer luck” that no one was injured.
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, in the 5000 block of Connecticut Avenue NW. 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 and has remained in custody ever since. No one was injured.
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 sentence, U.S. Attorney Phillips, Assistant Director in Charge Vale, and Chief Newsham commended the work of those who investigated the case from the Metropolitan Police Department and the FBI Violent Crimes Task Force. They also expressed appreciation for the assistance provided by the FBI’s Charlotte Division, which executed search warrants, seized evidence, and conducted interviews. They acknowledged the efforts of those who worked on the case from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including Victim/Witness Advocates Yvonne Bryant and Karina Hernandez, Paralegal Specialists Chela Okonji and Bianca Evans, 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 prosecuted the case.