The case against the man charged with firing an assault rifle in a Washington pizza parlor has been moved to federal court.
Edgar Maddison Welch, 28, appeared briefly in Superior Court in the District of Columbia Tuesday. Assistant U.S. Attorney Sonali Patel told a judge that prosecutors are dismissing the local charges, because they have obtained a federal arrest warrant. Welch is charged with interstate transportation of a firearm with intent to commit an offense.
Newly released documents showed Welch tried to recruit two friends to join him and was specifically looking for friends with military experience. The FBI said Welch told a friend in a text that he was “going to raid a pedo ring, possibly sacrificing the lives of a few for the lives of many.”
Welch appeared in U.S. District Court Tuesday afternoon. He was not required to enter a plea and will remain in custody pending a detention hearing scheduled for Friday morning. He said he is unemployed, doesn't own a home and can't afford a lawyer.
The federal charge carries a statutory maximum of 10 years in prison, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia.
According to an FBI affidavit, Welch started planning to visit the restaurant to investigate fictitious conspiracy theory about a child sex ring and tried to recruit friends with military experience, but that didn't work out.
Welch went into the restaurant Dec. 4 and fired an AR-15 rifle multiple times, police and prosecutors said. No one was hurt.
Welch told told The New York Times he started driving to Washington from his Salisbury, North Carolina, home, intending only to give the Comet Ping Pong pizza restaurant a "closer look." But while on the way, he said he felt his "heart breaking over the thought of innocent people suffering."
Welch would not say why he brought an AR-15 into the pizza shop and fired it, the newspaper reported.
Asked what he thought when he found there were no children in the restaurant, Welch said: "The intel on this wasn't 100 percent." But he would not completely dismiss the online claims while talking to the newspaper, conceding only that there were no children "inside that dwelling."
Welch's parents came to Washington to attend their son's court hearing Tuesday morning but did not attend his appearance in District Court in the afternoon. The two have not spoken with him since the shooting. The 28-year-old Welch has been in jail since the shooting.
Welch's parents said they noticed a change in Welch after he hit a 13-year-old pedestrian with his car in October.
Welch shifted from energetic and outgoing to melancholy and quiet, Terri Welch and Harry Welch Jr. told The Washington Post at their son's public defender's office Monday.
"He was very traumatized. We feel that accident changed him," Harry Welch said, and his wife said they have wondered whether it could have been a catalyst for the incident at Comet Ping Pong.
Harry Welch said his son felt guilty after the crash and worried about the long-term effects for the child, who had to be airlifted to a hospital with broken bones and a head injury. His parents said Edgar Welch began having nightmares but did not to seek help.
No charges were filed in the crash.
Welch's parents said their son is loving and responsible, an affectionate father to two young girls. "He's a dad first," Terri Welch said. He is deeply religious, with two Bible verses, Isaiah 40:30-31, tattooed across his back, they said.