D.C. Police say they have a suspect in custody in the incident at Comet Ping Pong Sunday afternoon: 28-year-old Edgar Welch of Salisbury, North Carolina. Police say he walked into the restaurant on Connecticut Avenue in Northwest Washington carrying a long rifle and a hand gun.
Comet Ping Pong has been the target of threats and conspiracy theories recently, and up until Sunday afternoon that's all they've been: threats. But then at about 3 p.m., police say Welch walked into the restaurant because he wanted to "self-investigate" the so-called "pizza gate."
"There will be a time and a place to address how and why this happened in greater detail but for now I will simply say we should all condemn the efforts of some people to spread malicious and utterly false accusations about Comet Ping Pong," says James Alefantis, the owner.
The accusation, that Comet Ping Pong's basement, which they reportedly don't even have, is the center of a child sex slave ring, organized by Hillary Clinton and her campaign manager.
"These stories are completely false, what happened today shows that promoting false conspiracy theories comes with consequences," says Alefantis.
The terrified people inside the restaurant at the time say those consequences became all too real for them. Sharif Silmi was inside with his family when the armed man walked inside.
"The man entered the restaurant and headed straight to the back room with a shot gun," says Silmi. "We thought it might be a security guard but one of the Comet employees very discreetly told me there was a gunman and everyone went outside."
The customers ran to nearby restaurants, like the Red Fox or Banana Leaf to seek refuge, waiting on police to arrive.
Police arrived quickly, and, half an hour or so later, Silmi snapped a picture of Welch being arrested.
Another customer, Vivek Jain, also watched it all unfold.
"We saw a man which his hands raised in the air walking backwards and was arrested,” he said. “I was thinking this was probably all that fake news, and there are lots of crazy people out there with guns, this is a consequence of a lot of ignorance."
Police say there is evidence fired his weapon inside the restaurant. They also say he had another weapon in his car nearby.
The area was shut down for hours while police searched for any other potential threats. In the end, no one was hurt.
Welch was arrested and charged with assault with a dangerous weapon.
Alefantis says the support from the community has been overwhelming and he will not let this keep them from serving the community. The restaurant will, however, be closed Monday and likely reopen on Tuesday.
Police say they will be working with Comet Ping Pong and other nearby restaurants to ensure they are safe. If they request additional security, DC Police say they will accommodate them.
Numerous people in the neighborhood and on Twitter have voiced their support for Comet Ping Pong, and they say this will only make them eat at the restaurant and support them more.
FULL STATEMENT FROM ALEFANTIS:
Comet Ping Pong is a beloved institution in Washington. We are heartened by the support and loyalty of our customers and our community -- they are our lifeblood and we will continue to serve them joyfully for the decades to come and beyond.
Tonight, we are deeply grateful to the local law enforcement officers who responded swiftly to our call. Thanks to their good work, I am confident that we will continue to operate safely and securely, as we have for the past decade. We also honor our employees tonight, who went above and beyond the call of duty to make sure that our customers were safe.
There will be a time and place to address how and why this happened in greater detail. For now, I will simply say that we should all condemn the efforts of certain people to spread malicious and utterly false accusations about Comet Ping Pong, a venerated DC institution. Let me state unequivocally: these stories are completely and entirely false, and there is no basis in fact to any of them. What happened today demonstrates that promoting false and reckless conspiracy theories comes with consequences. I hope that those involved in fanning these flames will take a moment to contemplate what happened here today, and stop promoting these falsehoods right away.I want to thank everyone for their concern. We look forward to resuming normal operations in the next few days. We are confident that Comet Ping Pong will continue be a safe, happy and hospitable place for this community.