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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Intruder wanted to break Speaker Pelosi’s kneecaps, federal complaint says

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) leaves her San Francisco residence, on Monday, Oct. 31, 2022, where her husband, Paul Pelosi, was attacked by an intruder on Friday Oct. 28.

By Kellen Browning, Glenn Thrush and Tim Arango

The man, lugging a backpack stuffed with rope, zip ties and a hammer, entered the mansion in San Francisco’s exclusive Pacific Heights neighborhood through a back door, leaving shards of glass on the ground.

The intruder woke up the husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and later attacked him, fracturing his skull. The assailant’s mission, he would later tell police, was to take hostage and perhaps break the kneecaps of Nancy Pelosi, whom he saw as “the ‘leader of the pack’ of lies told by the Democratic Party.”

All of it was detailed Monday in a federal complaint against David DePape, 42, who was charged with attempting to kidnap Nancy Pelosi and assaulting a relative of a federal official. San Francisco’s prosecutor later filed six additional state charges against DePape.

The attack on Friday morning came amid an increase in politically motivated violence just before next week’s midterm elections. And the Justice Department’s swift action in bringing criminal charges Monday against the suspect reflected the sense of urgency at the highest levels of the U.S. government to confront an issue that officials view as a stark threat to the nation. There has been a surge in threats and attacks against figures of both political parties in recent years, and Pelosi, in particular, has long been the subject of vilification and threats.

DePape was apprehended by the police at the Pelosi home in the early morning hours Friday. Police said he forcibly entered through the back door of the house, encountered Pelosi’s husband, Paul Pelosi, 82, and, following a struggle over a hammer, struck him with it. Nancy Pelosi was in Washington during the attack.

Paul Pelosi, who underwent surgery to repair his fractured skull and serious injuries to his hands and right arm, remains in the intensive care unit of a San Francisco hospital, surrounded by his family, according to a person familiar with the situation. On Monday, Nancy Pelosi thanked well-wishers and said that her husband was “making steady progress on what will be a long recovery process.”

According to the U.S. attorney’s office for the Northern District of California, which filed the federal charges, DePape told investigators in an interview that he wished to break Pelosi’s kneecaps if she “lied” and see her “wheeled into Congress” as a lesson to other members of Congress. Explaining why he didn’t flee the scene after he realized Paul Pelosi had surreptitiously dialed 911, DePape compared himself to the Founding Fathers battling the British, saying “he was fighting against tyranny without the option of surrender,” according to the federal complaint.

Later Monday, Brooke Jenkins, the San Francisco district attorney, announced the additional state charges, which include attempted murder, residential burglary, elder abuse, assault with a deadly weapon, false imprisonment of an elder and threatening family members of public officials. DePape, who was treated at a hospital for what authorities described as minor injuries, was expected to be arraigned in superior court Tuesday.

It was not immediately clear who was representing DePape in the cases.

The affidavit from an FBI agent that accompanied the federal charges provided the most complete, and chilling, narrative of the break-in to date. It detailed a groggy early-morning home invasion that culminated with a single, sudden hammer blow, delivered in the presence of shocked police officers.

DePape broke a glass door and entered the residence, awakening Paul Pelosi, according to the federal complaint. The suspect told Pelosi that he wanted to talk to “Nancy” and learned she was not there. When DePape said he would sit and wait for Pelosi, her husband said that she would not return for several days.

It was around that time that DePape took out zip ties from his pocket. In a recorded interview with police officers, DePape said he wanted to restrain Pelosi so he could go to sleep, because he was tired from carrying his backpack to the house.

At one point, Pelosi tried to access an elevator, which has a phone, but was blocked from doing so, according to the local prosecutor. At some point after that, Pelosi ducked into a bathroom to call 911 from his cellphone at 2:23 a.m., the complaint said. Officers with the San Francisco Police Department arrived eight minutes later to find the two men struggling over a hammer.

When they asked what was going on, DePape “responded that everything was good,” the FBI agent wrote. At that moment, DePape yanked the hammer from Pelosi’s grip and struck him once in the head, rendering him unconscious on the floor.

The officers quickly restrained DePape, who told them that he had left his backpack near the smashed door window on the rear porch. When they examined its contents, they found another hammer, tape, rope, two pairs of gloves — rubber and cloth — and a journal.

If convicted, DePape faces a maximum of 20 years in prison for the attempted kidnapping of a federal official in the performance of official duties, and up to 30 years for assaulting an immediate member of a federal official’s family and inflicting a serious injury with a dangerous weapon.

Nancy Pelosi’s spokesperson had no comment on the charges.

Federal law makes such an assault a federal crime when it is done “with the intent to impede, intimidate, or interfere with” the work of an official or “with intent to retaliate against” that person — a charge that stems from DePape’s attempts to find the speaker.

The attack on the Pelosi home in San Francisco contained echoes of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. When rioters broke into the halls of Congress on that day, some of them carried zip ties and shouted, “Nancy, Nancy, where are you, Nancy?” A person who had been briefed on Friday’s attack said DePape had been loudly demanding to know where Nancy Pelosi was.

Much remains unknown about DePape. But authorities have been examining what appeared to be DePape’s copious online presence, which included angry rants and extremist views.

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