A 22-year-old man has been arrested on federal arson charges accusing him of intentionally setting a fire at Comet Ping Pong, a Washington D.C. pizza restaurant that has been the target of believers in the false Pizzagate conspiracy theory. Ryan Rimas Jaselskis, who is an actor, bodybuilder and model, was taken into custody on February 5 by U.S. Park Police officers while trying to climb the fence around the Washington Monument, WRC-TV reports.
Jaselskis, who uses the name Ryan Rimas in his acting and modeling career, entered the Comet Ping Pong restaurant on January 23 about 9:30 p.m. and set fire to curtains inside the eatery, federal prosecutors say. He was caught on surveillance video, which was released by the DC Metropolitan Police and ATF arson task force. The video showed a man in a blue and white jacket inside the Connecticut Avenue restaurant trying to knock down a camera as a fire burns in the background. No one was inside the restaurant and there were no injuries.
Comet Ping Pong has been targeted by conspiracy theorists over the thoroughly debunked Pizzagate conspiracy since the 2016 election. The theory falsely claims that high-ranking Democrats, including Hillary Clinton and John Podesta, are involved in a child sex trafficking ring with other members of the elite class, including other politicians and Hollywood celebrities.
Federal authorities have not yet said if they know Jaselskis’ motive for setting the fire inside Comet. But a YouTube page that features videos from his acting career that is in the name of his parents posted a video promoting the QAnon conspiracy theory on January 23, the same day the fire was set.
The QAnon theory is linked to Pizzagate and features similar themes, that there is an elite class of child predators running a sex trafficking ring around the country. QAnon believers claim that President Trump is leading a purge of that elite class and has already arrested several offenders, including Clinton. The QAnon theory began on anonymous message boards with clues left by a user claiming to be a federal agent with top secret “Q level” clearance.
In December 2016, a man named Edgar Maddison Welch entered the pizza restaurant and fired a gun while “investigating” the conspiracy theory. Welch surrendered after realizing there were no children being held against their will in the restaurant. He was later sentenced to four years in federal prison.
Jaselkis remains in police custody and could not be reached for comment. It is not clear if he has hired an attorney. His family could also not be reached for comment by Heavy.
Here’s what you need to know about Ryan Rimas Jaselskis:
1. Jaselskis Was Recognized by EMTs as the Suspected Comet Ping Pong Arsonist After Police Used a Baton, Pepper Spray & a Stun Gun to Subdue Him During Another Washington Monument Arrest
A distinctive blue, red and white bomber jacket helped police connect Ryan Rimas Jaselskis to the arson at Comet Ping Pong, according to NBC Washington. Photos and videos released by authorities show the suspect wearing the jacket in the surveillance footage from the restaurant on the night of the fire. A video of the brawl during Jaselskis’ arrest at the Washington Monument shows him in the same jacket. And Ryan Rimas’ headshot on IMDb also features what appears to be the same jacket.
The February 5 incident with the U.S. Park Police was his second run-in with law enforcement there, DCist reports.
The U.S. Park Police told DCist that Jaselskis was caught on February 4 after jumping the chain link fence around the Washington Monument. He “actively resisted arrest” when two Park Police officers tried to take him into custody and a fistfight broke out. Jaselskis was hit with a baton and a stun gun during the incident before he was handcuffed. He was charged with unlawful entry and assault on a police officer, but released with an order to stay away from the Washington Monument.
The fight with officers was caught on video by a bystander and posted on YouTube. You can watch it below:
But February 5, Jaselskis returned to the Washington Monument and again tried to climb the fence. He was arrested again by the U.S. Park Police, this time without a fight, according to DCist. He was charged with unlawful entry, destruction of public property, and contempt in D.C. Superior Court. He was again wearing the blue, red and white bomber jacket, which wa taken as evidence, the news site reports.
DCist reports that the ATF, D.C. Fire and D.C. police arson task force investigating the arson examined the jacket on February 12 and found it matched the surveillance video. A witness at the restaurant also identified Jaselskis from a nine-person photo array, the news site reports. According to NBC Washington, paramedics who responded to the incident at the Washington Monument recognized Jaselskis as the suspect in the Comet Ping Pong arson
Arson investigators have said the suspect in the Comet Ping Pong incident left behind wooden matches. Lighter fluid was found on the curtains that were set on fire, investigators said. The suspect had been identified in a police bulletin as “white male, 25-30 years old, with blonde hair, mustache and beard. At the time of the incident, he was wearing a blue/white varsity-style jacket and blue jeans.”
2. The YouTube Video Posted on the Jaselskis’ Channel Is a Sprawling Overview of the Debunked QAnon Conspiracy Theory Promoting the Coming ‘Storm’
Federal authorities have not said if Ryan Rimas Jaselskis had a motive for setting the fire at Comet Ping Pong, including whether he was motivated by the Pizzagate conspiracy theory. Jaselskis’ known social media profiles do not show any indication that he is a follower of conspiracy theories.
But a YouTube channel that is in the name of Jaselskis’ parents posted a video on January 23, the same day as the Comet arson, promoting the debunked QAnon conspiracy theory.
The video is a 9-minute sprawling overview of the conspiracy theory and promotes the coming “storm,” which followers of the theory believe will occur when President Trump makes public the arrests of those behind the child sex trafficking cabal and “deep state.”
The video is titled “Melissa video.” It is not clear if Jaselskis’ parents posted the video or if it was posted by Ryan Jaselskis. The YouTube channel features several videos that appear to have been created by Ryan’s mother, but also many videos about Ryan’s acting and modeling career.
Ryan Jaselski’s family lives in South Carolina. He has also lived in North Carolina, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. His parents’ YouTube channel also includes several videos related to a Christian church in South Carolina, along with a weight loss program that his mother is involved in.
His parents could not be reached for comment.
3. Ryan Rimas Jaselskis Moved to Los Angeles to Pursue an Acting & Modeling Career
Ryan Rimas Jaselskis relocated from South Carolina to Los Angeles to pursue an acting and modeling career, according to his social media profiles. He uses the name Ryan Rimas in that career, according to his IMDB profile.
Several of his modeling photos have been posted on Facebook by a California-based photographer:
Ryan Rimas has appeared in nine films since 2015, according to his IMDB profile, all of which appear to be small or independent movies. The films include “Four Blood Moons,” “It Happened in L.A.,” “The Curse,” “Tiger Leaves Skin,” “Serial Killer Superstar,” “Evening Installation,” “Betting on Amanda,” and “Josh Taylor’s Prom Date.”
4. He Began Competing in Physique Competition as a Teen & Claims to Be the Youngest Eagle Scout Recipient in Pennsylvania History
Ryan Jaselskis graduated from Comenius School for Creative Leadership in Fort Mill, South Carolina, in 2014, according to Facebook. Jaselskis also lived in New Jersey and Pennsylvania while growing up. According to his social media profiles, Jaselskis competed in bodybuilding and physique competitions as a teen.
On Backstage.com, Jaselskis writes in the bio section, “October 26, 2014 – Became New Jersey state Mens Physique First Place Champion at 18 … August 2009 – Became Pennsylvania’s youngest Eagle Scout recipient at 13 years old.”
Jaselskis also briefly wrote articles on the website Good Guy Swag. In his bio on the site he wrote, “Bodybuilding phenom. Fitness Model. Recent high school graduate.”
One article was titled, “Cinderella Didn’t Have To Take Off Her Dress To Get Her Prince. And Neither Does My Future Wife,” and the other, “If Your Dreams Do Not Scare You, They Are Not Big Enough.”
In his first article he wrote, “Cinderella didn’t have to take off her dress to get her Prince. And neither does my future wife. I don’t want a girl just for sex–I want a girl with a heart of gold. Sex is easy to get, but love is hard to find. Although I’m not married, I bought a wedding band to signify my commitment to my future wife and to create boundaries. I put value on my future relationship–it’s something I deeply cherish, honor, and respect. My ring is more than just a “purity ring”–a declaration of commitment and boundaries. For me, it is symbolic of responsibility and hard work–they are one in the same.”
He added, “Despite how rich, ripped, and influential I become, my relationship with my future wife will be my top priority. My ring is just to let her know that she is NOT an option in my life, and not just a part of my life. She is the priority in my life next to God, the love of my life. She is my world. I will always protect, defend, and fight for her and what we have and where we are going.”
5. Jaselskis Is Being Held at the DC Department of Corrections’ Correctional Treatment Facility & Faces Between 5 to 20 Years in Federal Prison if Convicted of Arson
Ryan Rimas Jaselskis is being held at the D.C. Department of Corrections’ Correctional Treatment Facility, according to online jail records. It is not clear why he is being held at the medical facility. The criminal complaint filed by prosecutors does not provide many details about the case. A separate “statement of facts” filed by investigators remained sealed.
The offense description states that Jaselskis violated 18 USC 844 (i), “maliciously damage and destroy, or attempted to damage and destroy, by means of fire and explosive materials, the building and its interior contents at 5307 Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington, DC, the property of Comet Ping Pong, a business engaged in and affecting interstate commerce.”
Jaselskis appeared in court on February 14 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Harvey. He was ordered to be held on temporary detention for three days with a preliminary detention hearing set for February 19. He is being held without bond.
If convicted of the federal arson charge, Jaselskis could be sentenced to between 5 to 20 years in prison.