Man pleads guilty to setting local pizza place on fire knowing kids were inside

A man has pleaded guilty in federal court after he was charged with setting a local restaurant on fire, knowing there were children and others inside.

It happened at Comet Ping Pong, on the 5000 block of Connecticut Avenue NW in D.C.

Court documents show Ryan Jaselskis, of California, who was 22 at the time of the fire on Jan. 23, walked into the pizza place, past children and families in a game room, and doused curtains with lighter fluid and tried to set them on fire.

When the curtains failed to ignite, the documents state Jaselskis left the restaurant only to return a short time later to successfully light the same curtains on fire.

Luckily, some people in the restaurant and two employees were able to put out the fire quickly and no one was hurt.

The whole incident was caught on surveillance video.

Jaselkis was arrested about two weeks later, after jumping a construction fence at the Washington Monument. He was approached by two U.S. Park police officers, who tried to handcuff Jaselkis after he failed to respond to officersinstructions to stand up.

Court documents state Jaselskis immediately stood up and starting fighting with one of the officers, punching him in the nose and bloodying his face.

The motive for setting the fire is not revealed in the court papers.

Comet Ping Pong was the scene of another incident in 2016, when a North Carolina man came to the restaurant with an assault rifle claiming a child sex-trafficking ring was connected to the restaurant. That was discovered to be an internet rumor.

Jaselskis pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court to arson and assault on a federal law enforcement officer.

He could get four years in prison under the plea agreement. Sentencing is set for March 2020.

Kyle Cooper

Anchor and reporter Kyle Cooper, has been with WTOP since 1992. Over those 25 years Kyle has worked as a street reporter, editor and anchor. Prior to WTOP Kyle worked at several radio stations in Indiana, and at the Indianapolis Star Newspaper.

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