Police: Pelosi Suspect Wanted to Hold House Speaker Hostage, Break Kneecaps (AP)
LISA MASCARO and STEFANIE DAZIO Monday, 31 October 2022 03:19 PM EDT
The man accused of attacking Paul Pelosi, the husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, told police he wanted to hold the speaker hostage and “break her kneecaps," authorities said Monday.
David DePape, 42, confronted a sleeping Paul Pelosi in the couple's San Francisco bedroom early Friday morning, according to a federal affidavit filed in court Monday.
Federal prosecutors have filed two charges against DePape, days after police say he broke into the Pelosi's home and struck the Democratic leader’s 82-year-old husband in the head with a hammer. He was left seriously injured in the attack, underwent surgery for a skull fracture, and suffered other injuries to his arms and hands.
DePape is charged federally with influencing, impeding, or retaliating against a federal official by threatening or injuring a family member. He also faces one count of attempted kidnapping of a United States official on account of the performance of official duties.
The announcement of the federal charges comes as San Francisco's district attorney is set to announce state criminal charges as well against DePape, who police say shouted out “Where is Nancy?” during the attack. He was arrested Friday on suspicion of attempted murder, elder abuse and burglary and is expected to be arraigned on state charges Tuesday.
San Francisco's district attorney, Brooke Jenkins, also rejected conspiracy theories about the attack, confirming the assailant was targeting the Democratic leader when he broke into the couple’s home.
“At the time that the suspect had entered the Pelosi home that he was in fact, looking for Ms. Pelosi,” Jenkins told reporters late Sunday in San Francisco.
“The other thing is we want to make it clear that there were only two people in the home at the time that the police arrived, Mr. Pelosi and the suspect, there was no third person present,” she said.
“We have nothing to suggest that these two men knew each other prior to this incident.”
The district attorney’s remarks come as the gruesome attack on the husband of the House speaker is being mocked and dismissed in conservative, far-right social media, even among some Republicans leaders and those at the highest levels of social power. San Francisco’s police chief has also said the attack was targeted.
Elon Musk over the weekend tweeted, then deleted, a fringe website’s far-flung conspiracy theories to his millions of followers, as his purchase of Twitter has raised concerns that the social media platform would no longer seek to limit misinformation and hate speech.
In the toxic political climate, a week before the midterm elections, tensions are high with record security threats against lawmakers and other officials.
Paul Pelosi remains hospitalized in San Francisco after undergoing surgery for a fractured skull and other injuries. Speaker Pelosi, who was in Washington, D.C., at the time, returned swiftly to California. Unlike presidents, the congressional leaders have security protection for themselves, but not their families.
The attack was an unsettling echo of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, when rioters trying to overturn Joe Biden’s election defeat of Donald Trump stormed the halls eerily calling “Where’s Nancy?” DePape, was also carrying zip ties into the Pelosi home, two people briefed on the matter told The Associated Press. The people could not discuss details of the investigation publicly and spoke to AP on condition of anonymity.
Police were dispatched to the home in the upscale Pacific Heights neighborhood around 2:20 a.m. Friday after Paul Pelosi placed a 911 call. Jenkins said DePape broke into the rear door and made his way upstairs to confront Paul Pelosi. Police said they arrived to see the two men struggling over a hammer, when DePape struck Pelosi at least once before being tackled by officers.
The incident sparked fresh security concerns for lawmakers and other elected officials before the midterms.
With nearly 10,000 threats against members of Congress in the last year, U.S. Capitol Police have advised lawmakers to take precautions. Chief Tom Manger, who leads the U.S. Capitol Police, has said the threat from lone-wolf attackers has been growing and the most significant threat the force is facing is the historically high number of threats against lawmakers, thousands more than just a few years before.
The beating of the speaker’s husband follows other attacks and threats. This summer, a man carrying a gun, a knife and zip ties was arrested near Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s house in Maryland after threatening to kill the justice. In 2017, Republican Rep. Steve Scalise was seriously injured when a Bernie Sanders supporter opened fire on Republicans at a congressional baseball game practice.