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Police: Gunman Went to Restaurant to 'Self-Investigate' Conspiracy Theory


FILE - Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta speaks to members of the media outside Clinton's home in Washington. Pizzagate centers on emails that were stolen and made public by WikiLeaks in which Clinton campaign manager John Podesta and others discuss pizza. According to the theory, talk of pizza is code for pedophilia.

Police in the U.S. capital said a man arrested Sunday for firing a gun inside a popular pizza restaurant told them he was there to "self-investigate" a conspiracy theory, which spread through fake news stories during the presidential campaign.

Fake stories were prevalent throughout the race between Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton, helping to obscure facts about their positions and history and gaining wide exposure thanks to people sharing the false information on social media.

Sunday's incident happened at Comet Ping Pong, where a fake narrative alleges there is a pedophilia ring linked to Clinton. Restaurant owner James Alefantis reported getting repeated death threats before the election.

Police said 28-year-old Edgar Maddison Welch walked into Comet Ping Pong on Sunday afternoon, pointed a gun at an employee and later fired it. Employees and customers fled the restaurant and other businesses in the area went into lockdown. No one was injured.

Police said they found two other guns inside the restaurant and another in Welch's car. He was charged with assault with a dangerous weapon.

"What happened today demonstrates that promoting false and reckless conspiracy theories do come with consequences, and I hope that those that are involved with fanning these flames will take a moment to contemplate what happened there today and to stop right away," Alefantis told reporters.

He added that everyone should condemn efforts to spread "malicious and utterly false accusations."

Among those spreading the so-called Pizzagate conspiracy is Michael G. Flynn, the son of Trump's pick to be national security advisor, retired Gen. Michael T. Flynn.

The younger Flynn, who has served as a top aide to his father, wrote Sunday on Twitter: "Until #Pizzagate is proven to be false, it'll remain a story. The left seems to forget #PodestaEmails and the many 'coincidences' tied to it."

Pizzagate centers on emails that were stolen and made public by WikiLeaks in which Clinton campaign manager John Podesta and others discuss pizza. According to the theory, talk of pizza is code for pedophilia.

There has been no evidence to back up the conspiracy, and police have said there is no active investigation of the claims.

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