What we know about David DePape, the suspect in the attack on Paul Pelosi

Husband of House Speaker was ‘violently’ attacked in their San Francisco home

Gustaf Kilander,Alex Woodward
Tuesday 31 January 2023 01:28 GMT
Nancy Pelosi’s husband attacked during break-in at San Francisco home
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David DePape is facing federal and state charges for allegedly breaking into the home of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and attacking her husband Paul Pelosi in the early morning hours of 28 October.

Mr Pelosi, 82, was hospitalised with grave skull injuries following the attack at the couple’s San Francisco home.

Body-camera video of the shocking assault was released on 27 January, showing the moment a man identified by police as Mr DePape lifted the hammer and bashed Mr Pelosi over the head in front of police officers. Footage of the break in, Mr Pelosi’s 911 call and Mr DePape’s taped police interview hours after the attack also have been released, revealing publicly what prosecutors and law enforcement agencies have detailed in court documents in the months following the attack.

Mr DePape was indicted on federal charges including assault upon an immediate family member of a US official with the intent to retaliate against the official on account of the performance of official duties. A second charge alleges he attempted to kidnap a US official on account of the performance of official duties.

The 42-year-old was also indicted on state charges of attempted murder, burglary, assault with a deadly weapon, elder abuse, false imprisonment of an elder, and threats against a public official and their family. He has pleaded not guilty to both sets of charges.

In an intervew with the San Francisco Police Department, Mr DePape said that intended to hold Ms Pelosi hostage, interrogate her, and break her kneecaps if he believed she lied to him.

What happened during the attack?

Mr DePape entered the San Francisco home through a glass door sometime after 2am on 28 October, according to the criminal complaint and surveillance footage from outside the household.

The suspect repeatedly shouted “where is Nancy?” when he confronted Mr Pelosi, who was alone in bed at the time of the break-in, according to prosecutors.

“When Pelosi told him that Nancy was not there, DePape stated that he would sit and wait,” according to a criminal complaint. “Pelosi stated that his wife would not be home for several days and then DePape reiterated that he would wait.”

David DePape is shown in Berkeley, California in 2013.
David DePape is shown in Berkeley, California in 2013. (AP)

“DePape stated he wanted to tie Pelosi up so that DePape could go to sleep as he was tired from having had to carry a backpack to the Pelosi residence,” at which point he began “taking out twist ties from his pocket so that he could restrain Pelosi. Pelosi moved towards another part of the house, but DePape stopped him and together they went back into the bedroom”.

It was at this point that Mr Pelosi entered the bathroom and called 911.

“DePape remembered thinking that there was no way the police were going to forget about the phone call,” the complaint states. “DePape explained that he did not leave after Pelosi’s call to 911 because, much like the American founding fathers with the British, he was fighting against tyranny without the option of surrender.”

According to the complaint, Mr DePape said they went downstairs.

“The police arrived and knocked on the door, and Pelosi ran over and opened it. Pelosi grabbed onto DePape’s hammer, which was in Depape’s hand,” the legal filing states. “At this point in the interview, DePape repeated that DePape did not plan to surrender and that he would go ‘through’ Pelosi.”

“DePape stated that he pulled the hammer away from Pelosi and swung the hammer towards Pelosi. DePape explained that Pelosi’s actions resulted in Pelosi ‘taking the punishment instead’,” the complaint added.

Officers were dispatched to the family’s home at 2.27am, police said previously.

When they arrived on the scene, Mr DePape and Mr Pelosi were both seen struggling for control of a hammer.

Body-camera video released on 27 January showed the interaction in jarring detail.

When the officers told him to drop the hammer, the suspect pulled it from Mr Pelosi’s hand and struck Mr Pelosi on the top of his head, knocking him unconscious to the ground. The officers restrained and arrested the man, whom police have since named as Mr DePape.

In addition to the suspected weapon used in the attack, Mr DePape had also brought with him a bag that contained multiple zip ties and duct tape.

Mr Pelosi reportedly suffered blunt force trauma to his head and body and was treated for significant swelling and bruising, among other injuries.

Both Mr Pelosi and Mr DePape were taken to hospital for treatment.

Was there a known motive for the attack?

In the FBI criminal complaint, FBI Special Agent Stephanie Minor described details from Mr DePape’s post-arrest interview with police.

“DePape stated that he was going to hold Nancy hostage and talk to her,” the filing states. “If Nancy were to tell DePape the ‘truth,’ he would let her go, and if she ‘lied,’ he was going to break ‘her kneecaps.’ DePape was certain that Nancy would not have told the ‘truth.’

“In the course of the interview, DePape articulated he viewed Nancy as the ‘leader of the pack’ of lies told by the Democratic Party. DePape also later explained 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 explained generally that he wanted to use Nancy to lure another individual to DePape.”

Mr DePape’s first interview following his arrest was played at his preliminary hearing on 14 December.

That recording was released publicly on 27 January.

“I’m not trying to get away with it. I know exactly what I did,” he said during the interview.

“It originates with Hillary, but Pelosi ran with the lie as much as or more than anyone,” he said. “Honestly, like, day in day out, the person who was on the TV lying every day was Pelosi.”

He said that “not only were they spying on a rival campaign, they were submitting fake evidence to spy on a rival campaign, covering it up, persecuting the rival campaign,” he said, clarifying that he was talking about the former president’s campaign.

“It’s just like the whole f****** four years until they were finally able to steal the election,” he added.

Police chief William Scott and District Attorney Brooke Jenkins at a press conference to discuss the attack on Paul Pelosi
Police chief William Scott and District Attorney Brooke Jenkins at a press conference to discuss the attack on Paul Pelosi (Getty Images)

Mr DePape’s social media profiles reportedly included conspiracy theories surrounding the 2020 presidential election, the 6 January, 2021 attack on the US Capitol and Covid-19, according to since-removed profiles reviewed by CNN and The Wall Street Journal.

San Francisco District Attorney’s Office Communications Director Randy Quezad confirmed to CNN that the two did not know each other prior to the attack.

Public posts reviewed by CNN and confirmed as authentic by Mr DePape’s family include videos produced by MyPillow CEO and prominent election conspiracy theorist Mike Lindell, who continues to baselessly allege widespread fraud had manipulated the outcome of the 2020 election.

A blog linked to Pelosi assault suspect David DePape featured this image of a ‘zombified’ Hillary Clinton
A blog linked to Pelosi assault suspect David DePape featured this image of a ‘zombified’ Hillary Clinton (DePape blog)

Other social media and blog posts include transphobic images, false claims that Covid-19 vaccines are deadly, and content surrounding sprawling conspiracy theories involving “global elites” allegedly corrupting and controlling the population.

The 42-year-old suspect reportedly had a list of other people he wanted to target in addition to the House Speaker, law enforcement confirmed to CBS News.

The sources told the news outlet that they wouldn’t go as far to characterise the list as a “hit list” but said that they suspect the man might have been planning more attacks on other people.

The sources briefed on the investigation did not reveal the identities of the other people included on the list.

Paul Pelosi with his wife, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi
Paul Pelosi with his wife, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Getty)

What has the suspect’s family said about DePape?

His stepfather Gene DePape told CNN that he left Canada 20 years ago after growing up in British Columbia. He reportedly moved to California for a relationship.

A 2013 article in The San Francisco Chronicle identified Mr DePape as a “hemp jewelry maker” living in a Berkeley home with Gypsy Taub, the couple’s two sons, her daughter and another person.

Mr DePape’s stepmother, Teresa DePape, told The Daily Beast that “David has always had an opinion.”

“I’m one of these people who thinks everybody has an opinion, and I was raised when sticks and stones would break your bones, but words will never hurt you,” she told the outlet. “But hammers are not words.”

A former acquaintance told CNN that he was at one point living in a storage unit and “trying to create a new life for himself.”

She later received “really disturbing” emails from him in which he sounded like a “megalomaniac and so out of touch with reality,” she told the network. She reportedly cut off communication with him after she determined it was “dangerous” and used “Biblical justification to do harm.”

Another acquaintance told the network that he claimed to talk with angels and said that “there will be a hard time coming.”

Police outside the Pelosis’ home in San Francisco, where the attack took place
Police outside the Pelosis’ home in San Francisco, where the attack took place (Getty Images)

Mr DePape’s former partner, Gypsy Taub, recounted to ABC 7 in an interview on Friday evening about how she believed he’d been “mentally ill for a long time”.

Taub made the call to the news outlet from the California Institution for Women in Corona, California. Last year, she was found guilty on 20 counts, including the attempted abduction of a 14-year-old boy near his Berkeley high school.

She met Mr DePape 20 years ago but the couple went their separate ways seven years ago. Taub explained an incident to the news outlet that occurred one time while they were together during which he disappeared for a year and when he returned, was not the same person.

“He came back in very bad shape. He thought he was Jesus. He was constantly paranoid, thinking people were after him,” Taub said. “And it took a good year or two to get back to, you know, being halfway normal”.

His politics, she admitted, seemed to have changed since she last knew him as when they first met, “he didn’t have any experience in politics”.

“He was very much in alignment with my views and I’ve always been very progressive.”

Was DePape in the US illegally?

Mr DePape was in the US illegally and may face deportation to Canada.

“US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) lodged an immigration detainer on Canadian national David DePape with San Francisco County Jail, Nov 1, following his Oct 28 arrest,” the Department of Homeland Security said on Wednesday night.

Federal records reveal that the Canadian citizen entered the US in early March at the port of entry at San Ysidro on the border between California and Mexico, CNN reported.

In general, Canadians don’t need a visa to enter the US and can stay for as long as six months.

ICE sends immigration “detainers” to law enforcement agencies on all levels, including federal, state, and local. The intent is to inform officials that ICE is looking to detain someone before they’re let go.

The detainer sent regarding Mr DePape will in all likelihood not affect the case against him as deportations usually take place following a criminal case’s resolution. The US would in most cases seek deportation following a conviction and prison sentence, CNN noted.

This story was first published in October 2022 and has been updated with developments

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