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Accused Pizzagate gunman in Comet Ping Pong pleads not guilty

FILE- In this Dec. 4, 2016, file photo, Edgar Maddison Welch, 28 of Salisbury, N.C., surrenders to police in Washington. Welch, who fired an assault riffle multiple times inside a pizza restaurant in the nation's capital while investigating an internet conspiracy theory is expected in court Tuesday, Dec. 13, for a hearing on whether he should stay in jail while he awaits trial. (Sathi Soma via AP, File)

A man accused of bringing an assault weapon to a Washington pizzeria while investigating false internet rumors of child sexual abuse appeared in court Friday morning.

Twenty-eight-year-old Edgar Maddison Welch pled not guilty.

Prosecutors have argued that Welch is dangerous and should remain in jail. His attorney had an opportunity today to argue for his release from custody pending trial, but failed to do so. According to court documents, Welch will remain in jail pending his next status hearing, which is scheduled for January 5, 2017 at 2 p.m.

Welch faces federal and local gun charges. He was arrested Dec. 3 outside a restaurant called Comet Ping Pong. The pizzeria has been targeted by conspiracy theorists who believe it's a haven for pedophilia involving prominent Democrats.

Authorities say Welch brought an assault weapon to the restaurant and fired it while inside. Police say the North Carolina man surrendered when he found no evidence to back up the rumors.

According to court documents, in the days before traveling to Washington, Welch reached out to friends via text messages about joining him to "self-investigate" the conspiracy theory.

After a phone call on December 1 between Welch and a friend called “C.” in the documents, the two exchanged text messages.

"Tell me we r going to save the Indians from the pipeline," C. texted Welch at 8:28 p.m.,,
Welch responded, "Way more important, much higher stakes" and "Pizzagate."
C. wrote, "Sounds like we r freeing some oppressed pizza from the hands of an evil pizza joint." Welch replied, "Youtube tonight, talk in AM."

One of his friends asked what "cause" Welch was asking him to join.

"Raiding a pedo ring, possibly sacraficing [sic] the lives of a few for the lives of many. Standing up against a corrupt system that kidnaps, tortures and rapes babies and children in our own backyard... defending the next generation of kids, our kids, from ever having to experience this kind of evil themselves[.] I'm sorry bro, but I'm tired of turning the channel and hoping someone does something and being thankful it's not my family. One day it will be our families. The world is too afraid to act and I'm too stubborn not to[.]"

Welch also recorded himself possibly saying goodbye to family, according to the documents, on his way to Comet Ping Pong.

According to text messages between Welch and his girlfriend, “M.R.” that started at about 8:42 a.m.., he had left while M.R. was still sleeping, leaving his children with her. She is not a parent of the children. Her messages to him showed increasing concern over the course of the day.

Welch told M.R. that he “might be gone awhile.”

While he was apparently driving to Washington, Welch recorded a selfie video on his cell phone with a time stamp of 11;06 a.m., according to the court documents:

The phone camera was aimed at WELCH, who looked into the camera and told family members that he loved them; that he hoped that he had "showed it"; and that he hoped that he would be able to "tell [them] again." "And if not," he told them "don't ever forget it."

This story has been updated

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