An arsonist allegedly started a fire Wednesday night at Comet Ping Pong, the Washington, D.C. pizzeria that was targeted by internet hoaxers as part of the “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory.
According to a police report, an unidentified person set a curtain in the back of the restaurant on fire around 10:45 p.m. Wednesday. Comet staffers used a fire extinguisher to put out the fire, and no injuries were reported.
Arson investigators discovered burned matches and a bottle of charcoal lighter fluid next to the curtain, leading to a “unanimous” decision that the fire was caused by arson, according to police.
Several prank calls were made to the restaurant earlier in the night, the Washington Post reported.
Internet conspiracy theorists claimed in 2016, without any evidence, that the restaurant was a front for a pedophile sex ring run by Hillary Clinton and other top Democrats. In Dec. 2016, Edgar Maddison Welch, 28, from North Carolina, fired several shots inside Comet after conspiracy theories online convinced him that restaurant housed a child-sex dungeon.
Comet owner James Alefantis confirmed the fire in a statement. “Customers and staff were safe at all times and no one was hurt,” he said.
It’s unclear what motivated the arson. Friday evening, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives posting pictures of a suspect it said was being sought for questioning.
The Pizzagate theory, which flourished on pro-Trump internet forums and social media during the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election, was based on internet theorists misconstruing emails stolen from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta by Russian hackers.
The conspiracy theory set off a wave of death threats and other harassment against Alefantis and Comet staffers, with amateur Pizzagate “investigators” showing up to the restaurant to badger customers and employees.