What to Know About the Attack on Paul Pelosi

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Paul Pelosi, husband of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), arrives for a reception honoring Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and his wife Mareva Mitsotakis in the East Room of the White House on May 16, 2022 in Washington, DC. Credit - Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images

David DePape, the 42-year-old man accused of breaking into House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco home and attacking her husband, 82-year-old Paul Pelosi, has been federally charged with assault and attempted kidnapping.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced the charges Monday, three days after DePape allegedly broke into the Pelosi home in search of Nancy Pelosi.

According to a statement released on Oct. 28 by Nancy Pelosi’s spokesman Drew Hammill, “Paul Pelosi was attacked at home by an assailant who acted with force, and threatened his life while demanding to see the Speaker.”

The man, identified by the San Francisco Police Department as DePape, was initially charged by the police department with attempted homicide, assault with a deadly weapon, elder abuse, burglary, and several other felonies, Police Chief William Scott told reporters on Friday morning.

The new federal charges are one count of assault on an immediate family member of a U.S. official “with the intent to retaliate against the official on account of the performance of official duties,” according to a statement by DOJ, and one count of attempted kidnapping of a federal official. The charges together carry a maximum sentence of 50 years.

Hammill issued a statement on Friday morning saying Paul Pelosi is expected to make a full recovery, and that Nancy Pelosi was not in San Francisco at the time of the attack. Hammill later provided an update saying that Paul Pelosi was admitted to the “Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital where he underwent successful surgery to repair a skull fracture and serious injuries to his right arm and hands.” He remains in the hospital.

“Our children, our grandchildren and I are heartbroken and traumatized by the life-threatening attack on our Pop,” Nancy Pelosi said in a statement on Saturday. “We are grateful for the quick response of law enforcement and emergency services, and for the life-saving medical care he is receiving.”

Here’s what to know about the incident.

What we know so far about the attack

A sworn affidavit submitted by FBI Special Agent Stephanie Minor revealed that DePape allegedly broke into the Pelosi home prepared to “detain and injure” Nancy Pelosi.

DePape allegedly had in his possession a hammer, roll of tape, white rope, one pair of rubber and cloth gloves, and zip ties.

Scott said police were dispatched to the Pelosi home at about 2:30 in the morning after Pelosi called 911, keeping the phone line open so personnel could hear that he needed help.

Pelosi told investigators that he was asleep in his bed when DePape entered his room and asked for Nancy Pelosi. When Paul Pelosi said she would be gone for days, DePape allegedly said he would wait for her. (Nancy Pelosi was in Washington at the time of the attack.)

When officers arrived at the scene, they found both Pelosi and DePape with their hands on a hammer. DePape allegedly pulled a hammer away from Pelosi and hit him in the head before police were able to restrain DePape. Pelosi appeared unconscious, according to the affidavit. Both men were taken to a hospital, Scott said. The motive behind the attack is still under investigation.

DePape allegedly pulled a hammer away from Pelosi and attacked him before a police officer tackled DePape. Both men were taken to a hospital, Scott said.

The San Francisco Police Department interviewed DePape after the incident, and he allegedly told officers “he was going to hold Nancy hostage and talk to her.” DePape allegedly said he would let her go if she were to tell DePape the “truth,” and if she “lied,” he was going to break “her kneecaps.” DePape allegedly told officers “he viewed Nancy as the ‘leader of the pack’ of lies told by the Democratic Party,” according to the affidavit.

Though Paul Pelosi was able to dial 911 during the incident, DePape allegedly expressed to police that he did not feel the need to leave after Pelosi dialed 911 because “much like the American founding fathers with the British, he was fighting against tyranny without the option of surrender,” according to the affidavit.

What we know so far about the alleged assailant

According to the affidavit, DePape is a resident of Richmond, Calif., where he has lived for about two years in a garage.

CNN reports that a Facebook account belonging to DePape has been taken down, but that he often posted conspiracy theories about COVID-19 vaccines, the January 6 insurrection, and the 2020 election. Among the public posts was a video by My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell falsely claiming the 2020 election was stolen.

The Facebook page also contained false posts about George Floyd’s death and aftermath, and posts promoting a conspiracy theory known as the “Great Reset” which believes that COVID-19 is being used by elites to usher in a new world order. None of the public posts mention Pelosi, according to CNN.

Blog posts under DePape’s name include references to QAnon conspiracy theories, including the belief that child sex traffickers, pedophiles, and cannibals run the country, according to the Associated Press.

Gene DePape, who CNN reports is David DePape’s stepfather, told the news outlet that David grew up in Canada. Gene DePape and Mark DePape, who CNN cites as David DePape’s uncle, said David was estranged from the family.

Authorities say the assailant is in the hospital for minor injuries.

How Nancy Pelosi and other lawmakers responded

Many lawmakers have said that that attack is a wake-up call about escalating political violence and the potential consequences of heated national political discourse.

In a speech at the annual Pennsylvania Democratic Party’s Independence Dinner, President Joe Biden called the attack “despicable” and tied it to the dangers of right-wing misinformation. “There’s no place in America. There’s too much violence—political violence—too much hatred, too much vitriol,” Biden said. “What makes us think one party can talk about stolen elections, Covid being a hoax, [that it’s] all a bunch of lies, and it not affect people who may not be so well-balanced? What makes us think that it’s not going to alter the political climate? Enough is enough is enough.”

Nancy Pelosi also released a statement, saying, “Sadly, a violent man broke into our family home yesterday morning, demanded to confront me and brutally attacked my husband Paul. Our children, our grandchildren and I are heartbroken and traumatized by the life-threatening attack on our Pop. We are grateful for the quick response of law enforcement and emergency services, and for the life-saving medical care he is receiving. Please know that the outpouring of prayers and warm wishes from so many in the Congress is a comfort to our family and is helping Paul make progress with his recovery. His condition continues to improve. We are also comforted by the words of the Book of Isaiah: ‘Do not fear, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.’ We thank you for your prayers and warm wishes as well as the work you do to strengthen our Democracy.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, shared on Twitter that she was “shocked” by the news of the attack. “As we learn more about the motives, I hope this serves as a reminder that all of us in public life and commenting about public officials should tone down the political rhetoric and avoid fueling division and violence – particularly during the heightened tension of this election,” she wrote.

California Governor Gavin Newsom also weighed in in a public statement on Friday. “This heinous assault is yet another example of the dangerous consequences of the divisive and hateful rhetoric that is putting lives at risk and undermining our very democracy and Democratic institutions,” Newsom said. “Those who are using their platforms to incite violence must be held to account.” “This morning’s terrifying attack on Paul Pelosi by a man obsessed with election conspiracies is a dangerous reality encouraged by some members of my own party,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, a Republican on the House panel investigating the January 6 Capitol attack, wrote on Twitter. “I’m thankful he will be okay. This must be condemned by every Member of Congress & candidate. Now.” Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin is facing criticism for his comment about the attack. While campaigning on behalf of House candidate Yesli Vega, Youngkin addressed the attack. “Speaker Pelosi’s husband had a break-in last night in their house, and he was assaulted,” he said. “There’s no room for violence anywhere, but we’re going to send her back to be with him in California. That’s what we’re going to go do.” In response, Newsom wrote, “This is funny to you? Pathetic,” on Twitter.