Comet Ping Pong ‘Pizzagate’ Restaurant Catches Fire, Police Suspect Arson
Investigators hunting man suspected of starting fire at infamous pizzeria
Police are hunting for a man suspected of starting a fire at the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Washington DC - the restaurant at the center of the infamous "Pizzagate" conspiracy theory.
The fire broke out later on Thursday night, according to local news reports.
Fire investigators say they discovered lighter fluid and a box of matches at the scene, leading them to believe the blaze was a deliberate arson attack.
The restaurant was open at the time the fire broke out and some of the patrons believe the blaze was started deliberately.
“All of a sudden we see these flames. A fire has been started—a very big fire,” Nicole Lafragola, a witness, told WJLA.
Another patron who was dining in the pizzeria at the time, a male who did not identify himself, said that a curtain at the back of the restaurant suddenly burst into flames.
He said he helped to pull down the curtain while the staff put out the fire with extinguishers.
“I smelled what smelled like a lot of lighter fluid,” the man said.
“My suspicion is it’s arson, I don’t have the evidence on that.”
Lafragola says she saw a man acting oddly before the fire broke out.
The way he left the restaurant also made her suspicious.
“He seemed like he was there with a purpose obviously, and he didn’t stick around,” Lafragola said.
"This gentleman doesn’t acknowledge that he sees this fire, he just walks right out and doesn’t make eye contact with anyone."
According to the Epoch Times, the restaurant gained nationwide fame after Edgar Welch, 28, broke into the establishment with a gun in December 2016 acting on a conspiracy theory triggered by the release of thousands of emails stolen from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.
The theory, since named “Pizzagate,” alleged that Comet Ping Pong and nearby restaurants engaged in child-sex trafficking and other grave crimes involving high-level government officials.
Podesta’s emails, released by Wikileaks in October 2016, contained communications with James Alefantis, the owner of Comet Ping Pong, about a fundraiser for Hillary Clinton.
The emails also contained many strange references to food, among them a reference to a handkerchief described as having a “map that seems pizza related.”
Since “cheese pizza” is slang for child pornography, online sleuths suspected that the strange food references could be code language for child abuse.
The suspicions were inflamed with voluminous circumstantial evidence, including a Comet employee posting images fusing images of pizza and sexual intercourse.
Two Comet Ping Pong workers and owner James Alefantis spoke before the gunman's sentencing.
Alefantis called “Pizzagate” a “vicious web of lies” and said many people had suffered because of Welch’s actions.
ATF is seeking the pictured suspect for questioning about the January 23, 2019 arson at Comet Pizza, 5037 Connecticut Ave NW. If you have any information contact 1-888-ATF-FIRE. pic.twitter.com/KJd9FqZQt0— ATF HQ (@ATFHQ) January 25, 2019
According to the New York Post, a police report confirms that several spent matches and a bottle of lighter fluid were found near the burned curtain that hung in the backroom of Comet Ping Pong after the alleged arson on Wednesday.
The curtain was destroyed in the fire, which was put out by staff members at the Northwest Washington restaurant, the report said.
An image of the suspect — who is still at large — was captured on surveillance video, investigators from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms said.
He’s described as a man between the age of 25 and 30, with blonde hair, a mustache, and a beard.