Pizza shop gunman from NC latched onto internet, religion, friends say

SALISBURY, N.C. (AP) – Before he was charged with firing an assault rifle inside a Washington restaurant, where he had been drawn by an online hoax, Edgar Maddison Welch was known as a well-meaning father of two girls.

But acquaintances also say he unnerved some with his religious fervor and sometimes had trouble detaching himself from the internet.

Police say he came to the pizza restaurant Sunday on a self-imposed mission to investigate a false account of a child sex ring that had spread through fake internet news stories.

For years, he had appeared to lead an aimless life of things left unfinished: jobs, college and even marriage. Along the way, he was convicted of drunken driving and minor drug charges.

And in the weeks before his Washington arrest, there were signs of turbulence.