Comet Ping Pong, the Washington, DC pizzeria at the center of the “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory a few years ago, is back in the news this week after a suspected arsonist attempted to set it ablaze.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives on Friday released a photo of the man they suspect of attempting to set restaurant curtains on fire on Wednesday night. According to The Washington Post, citing police reports, investigators found several burned matches on the floor of a back room, along with a bottle of lighter fluid. Staff at the restaurant, which is located in Northwest DC, was able to extinguish the blaze.
The incident happened hours after the restaurant received prank calls from an unidentified woman. The arson suspect is described as “white male, 25-30 years old, with blonde hair, mustache and beard,” according to the ATF.
In 2016, Comet Ping Pong was attacked by 28-year-old Edgar Maddison Welch, who walked into the restaurant with an AR-15 and .38-caliber handgun and fired the rifle before surrendering to police. No one was injured.
Welch had been prompted into the attack by a right-wing conspiracy theory alleging that Comet Ping Pong was the center of a child sex trafficking ring run by Hillary Clinton and other prominent Democrats. The conspiracy theory, promoted on 4chan, Reddit, and other internet sites, occurred about the same time that WikiLeaks released the hacked emails of Clinton campaign manager John Podesta.
As a result, Comet Ping Pong’s owner and employees were continuously terrorized by death threats and harassing phone calls for months.
Welch eventually pleaded guilty and received a sentence of four years in prison.
In response to this week’s arson attempt, restaurant owner James Alefantis told the Post that he doesn’t believe the incident is linked to the sex-trafficking conspiracy theory. “That was years ago,” he told the newspaper.
He noted, however, that Comet Ping Pong is still frequently targeted by prank phone calls, as occurred before this week’s blaze.