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The man who allegedly opened fire in a Washington, D.C., pizzeria over the weekend is reportedly admitting he was inspired by Pizzagate

December 08, 2016 04:44 PM

The man who allegedly opened fire in a Washington, D.C., pizzeria over the weekend is reportedly admitting he was inspired to visit the restaurant with a military-style assault rifle after reading debunked conspiracy theories about a child pornography ring hosted in its basement.

As Edgar M. Welch told the New York Times on Wednesday from jail, “I regret how I handled the situation.”

But he wouldn’t dismiss the theories that motivated him.

Welch, who was arrested and charged with assault with a dangerous weapon on Sunday, told the Times he drove 350 miles from his home in  Salisbury, North Carolina, to take a “closer look” at Comet Ping Pong in D.C. The pizza shop is at the center of fake conspiracy theories online that purport to link its owner, James Alefantis, former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and her top campaign staff members.

Police say the conspiracy theories, which are connected under the term “Pizzagate,” have no evidence and are false.

The theories began circulating online after emails from Alefantis were hacked from the account of Clinton’s former campaign chairman, John Podesta, and released by WikiLeaks, according to the Washington Post. The crux of the fake stories is, according to the Post, that restaurants in the retail strip occupied by Comet Ping Pong allegedly hide an underground child sex ring in which Clinton and Podesta are involved.

Welch, 28, told the Times that he initially heard the conspiracy through word of mouth, before installing Internet at his home and becoming “really able to look into it.”

After reading numerous posts, Welch felt his “heart breaking over the thought of innocent people suffering,” he told the Times.

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According to a statement released by authorities on Sunday, police responded to a report of a man with a gun at the northwest Washington pizza shop just before 3 p.m. Welch allegedly entered Comet Ping Pong and pointed an assault rifle at an employee. The victim was able to get away unharmed and contacted police.

Welch admitted to the Times that he didn’t discover children at Comet Ping Pong, saying, “The intel on this wasn’t 100 percent.”

The Times noted, however, that Welch would not outright disavow the Pizzagate conspiracy.

He further slammed the term “fake news,” telling the outlet that he doesn’t trust the mainstream media. He asserted his actions weren’t political, and said that he didn’t vote for either President-elect Donald Trump or Clinton.

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Welch conceded to the paper, “I just wanted to do some good and went about it the wrong way.”

His attorney, Ieshaah Murphy with the D.C. Public Defenders Service, did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.

It was not immediately clear if Welch has entered a plea to his charge, and he could not be reached by PEOPLE.

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