Attack suspect David DePape intended to kidnap, ‘kneecap’ Nancy Pelosi, prosecutors allege
Federal charges against David DePape include assault on a family member of a U.S. official and attempted kidnapping of a federal official.
The man accused of attacking Paul Pelosi was hoping to find House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at their San Francisco home on Friday and intended to kidnap her and break her kneecaps, prosecutors said Monday in filing federal charges against him.
On Monday, the Department of Justice filed federal assault and kidnapping charges against David DePape, and San Francisco Dist. Atty. Brooke Jenkins charged DePape with attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon, among other crimes.
Court papers offer the most detailed narrative to date of what authorities say happened.
In a voluntary interview with San Francisco police after his arrest, DePape said he set out to hold Nancy Pelosi hostage and interrogate and torture her, according to the federal charges.
“If Nancy were to tell DePape the truth, he would let her go, and if she lied, he was going to break her kneecaps,” police said the suspect told them. DePape believed “that Nancy would not have told the truth,” according to a federal affidavit.
In the course of the interview, DePape said he considered Pelosi the “leader of the pack” of lies told by the Democratic Party. He later told investigators “that by breaking Nancy’s kneecaps, she would then have to be wheeled into Congress, which would show other members of Congress there were consequences to actions.”
DePape also said in the interview he wanted to use Pelosi to lure another individual to the San Francisco home.
Authorities recovered zip ties in Paul Pelosi’s bedroom, plus rope, a hammer and rubber-and-cloth gloves, along with a journal inside a backpack believed to belong to DePape.
The federal complaint debunks conspiracy theories that have spread on the internet, fueling rhetoric in right-wing circles and casting doubt on some of the facts of the attack. The conspiracy theories have gone from fringe to the mainstream, with members of Congress sharing them.
The attacker who confronted Nancy Pelosi’s husband Paul in their home yelled, ‘Where is Nancy?’ Read our full coverage.
DePape, 42, is accused of breaking into the Pelosis’ San Francisco home early Friday and attacking Paul Pelosi with another hammer. The federal complaint charges DePape with one count of assault of an immediate family member of a U.S. official, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison. DePape also was charged with one count of attempted kidnapping of a federal official, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.
DePape also was charged by San Francisco prosecutors with attempted murder, residential burglary, assault with a deadly weapon, elder abuse, false imprisonment of an elder and threats to a public official and their family. He faces 13 years to life in prison if convicted of all local charges against him.
Police have not offered a motive for the attack. But Jenkins said Monday that based on DePape’s statements and comments to Pelosi, it “was politically motivated.”
“It’s very sad to see that we are once again at the point in history where people believe that it’s OK to express their political sentiments through violence,” she said. “It demonstrates that we have to calm things down. We have to decide that we’re going to be more respectful as an American society.”
Federal prosecutors said DePape entered the Pelosis’ home in the exclusive Pacific Heights neighborhood after smashing a rear glass door with a hammer and then went to the second floor of the house. There, he found Paul Pelosi, 82, sleeping and repeatedly shouted, “Where’s Nancy?” Paul Pelosi was alone at the time of the break-in; his wife was in Washington, D.C.
Realizing the potential danger, Pelosi managed to make a quick, surreptitious phone call to 911 and left the line open, authorities said. A 911 dispatcher realized something was seriously wrong and immediately sent police to the address. Officers were told there was a man inside the home named David, whom Pelosi did not know.
A private security guard told police he had seen a man dressed in all black and walking with a backpack shortly before hearing a loud banging before police arrived at the residence, according to the federal affidavit.
When police officers arrived about 2:30 a.m., Pelosi opened the door, and they saw both men with their hands on a hammer. Officers told the men to drop the weapon, but DePape gained control and swung it, striking Pelosi in the head, authorities said.
Officers immediately restrained DePape, while Pelosi appeared to be unconscious on the floor.
As he was being transported to a hospital, Pelosi told a police officer he had never seen DePape before and was asleep when he came into the bedroom and told him he wanted to talk to his wife. Jenkins said Pelosi was in his bed in a nightshirt and underwear when DePape surprised him.
According to a federal affidavit, Pelosi told DePape that his wife wouldn’t be home for several days, but DePape insisted he would wait. That’s when Pelosi persuaded the intruder to let him use the bathroom, where he placed the 911 call.
Jenkins said Monday during a news conference that Pelosi initially tried to access a phone in a household elevator, but DePape blocked his access. He later was able to get to a restroom and use another phone to call 911.
In his interview with police, DePape said he wanted to tie up Pelosi so he could go to sleep. But after police arrived, DePape told authorities, he decided Pelosi would be “taking the punishment [intended for Nancy Pelosi] instead” and swung the hammer at him.
The San Francisco district attorney said investigators are still trying to determine how many times Pelosi was struck.
In first statement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi talks of being ‘heartbroken and traumatized’ and thanks first responders and well-wishers.
DePape was booked Friday afternoon.
A Times review of his online accounts showed that DePape was involved in the world of far-right conspiracies, antisemitism and hate.
In a personal blog that DePape maintained, posts include such topics as “Manipulation of History,” “Holohoax” and “It’s OK to be white.” He mentioned 4chan, a favorite message board of the far right. He posted videos about conspiracies involving COVID-19 vaccines and the war in Ukraine being a ploy for Jewish people to buy land.
DePape’s screeds included posts about QAnon, an unfounded theory that former President Trump is at war with a cabal of Satan-worshiping Democratic elites who run a child sex ring and control the world. In an Aug. 23 entry titled “Q,” DePape wrote: “Either Q is Trump himself or Q is the deep state moles within Trumps inner circle.”
Days after taking over Twitter, Elon Musk posted and later deleted an unfounded conspiracy theory on the suspect in the attack on Nancy Pelosi’s husband.
Pelosi is recovering from surgery at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital “to repair a skull fracture and serious injuries to his right arm and hands. In a statement Monday, Pelosi’s office said he was improving but faced a “long recovery process.”
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