WASHINGTON – The man charged with firing an assault rifle inside a Washington pizza restaurant underwent a personality change after an October car crash when he hit a 13-year-old boy, his parents said Monday.
Edgar Maddison Welch shifted from being energetic and outgoing to melancholy and quiet, Terri Welch and Harry Welch Jr. told The Washington Post (http://wapo.st/2hxFSql) at their son's public defender's office.
"He was very traumatized. We feel that accident changed him," Harry Welch said. Wife Terri said they have wondered whether it could have been a catalyst for the incident at Comet Ping Pong.
Police and prosecutors say that on Dec. 4, Maddison Welch went into the restaurant and fired an AR-15 rifle multiple times inside. No one was hurt.
He told police "he had read online that the Comet restaurant was harboring child sex slaves," and he wanted to investigate, according to court documents.
His parents said they'd never heard of the conspiracy theory dubbed "Pizzagate" and were shocked to learn their son had been arrested in connection with it.
"We were stunned. And my heart just stopped and stomach just dropped," Terri Welch said.
Harry Welch said his son felt guilty after the crash and worried about the long-term effects for the child, who had to be airlifted to a hospital with broken bones and a head injury. His parents said Maddison Welch began having nightmares but did not to seek help.
No charges were filed in the crash.
Maddison Welch's parents said their son is loving and responsible, an affectionate father to two young girls. "He's a dad first," Terri Welch said. He is deeply religious, with two Bible verses, Isaiah 40:30-31, tattooed across his back, they said.
And after an earthquake devastated Haiti in 2010, killing hundreds of thousands, Maddison Welch traveled to the impoverished island and spent weeks there building houses with a church.
The couple from North Carolina was in town to attend a Tuesday court hearing for their son, with whom they have not spoken since the shooting.
Information from: The Washington Post, http://www.washingtonpost.com