Paul Pelosi attack: Everything we know about assault on Nancy Pelosi’s husband as bodycam video released

Authorities said the attacker was hoping to kidnap the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and hold her hostage

Io Dodds
San Francisco
,Bevan Hurley
Friday 27 January 2023 18:23 GMT
Paul Pelosi attack shown in newly released police bodycam footage

On 28 October, Americans woke to news of a violent, apparently politically motivated attack on the home of one of the nation's most powerful political figures.

Paul Pelosi, the 82-year-old husband of Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, was taken to hospital after being allegedly beaten with a hammer by a man who broke into the family's house in San Francisco.

Body-camera video of the shocking assault was released on 27 January, showing the moment suspect David DePape lifted the hammer and bashed Mr Pelosi over the head in front of police officers.

The attack sparked anger, mockery, lurid conspiracy theories, increased security, warnings of a "heightened threat" from domestic extremists in advance of November's midterm elections, and fears that the extreme rhetoric of far right groups such as QAnon is increasingly spilling over into violence.

Here's everything we know on the brutal assault.

Nancy and Paul Pelosi in 2019
Nancy and Paul Pelosi in 2019 (Associated Press)

Paul Pelosi called 911 and spoke 'in code'

Nancy Pelosi was in Washington DC on the night when her husband phoned 911 from their house in Pacific Heights, an affluent San Francisco neighbourhood with sweeping views of the bay and the Golden Gate Bridge.

At 2.23am, an emergency dispatcher named Heather Grives picked up Mr Pelosi's call. According to police, Mr Pelosi spoke to her in "code", indicating that something was wrong while apparently trying to conceal the fact that he was on the phone.

“What’s going on? Why are you here? What are you going to do to me?” he reportedly asked his assailant, loud enough for the handset to hear.

In a police audio clip, one dispatcher summarised the situation this way: "RP [reporting person] stated that there is a male in the home and that he's going to wait for his wife. RP stated that he doesn't know who the male is but he advised that his name is David and that he is a friend. RP sounded somewhat confused."

“There is a gentleman here waiting for my wife to come, waiting for my wife to come back. She’s not going to be here for days so I guess we will have to wait,” Mr Pelosi said.

The operator asked whether he needed the police or fire department.

“I don’t think so. Is the Capitol Police around? They are usually here at the house protecting my wife,” he said.

The dispatcher clarified that he was connected with San Francisco police.

“No, I understand. OK, well, what do you think? I’ve got a problem, but he says everything is good. The gentleman came into the house,” Mr Pelosi said.

“Do you know who the person is?” the operator asked.

“No, I don’t know who he is. He told me not to do anything,” he said.

The dispatcher asked for his name and address as well as the name of the suspect.

“His name is David,” Mr Pelosi said.

The dispatcher asked “who is David?”

Mr Pelosi said “I don’t know.” Mr DePape then can be heard saying “I’m a friend of theirs.”

“I can stay on the phone to make sure everything is OK,” the operator replied.

“No, he’s telling me to get the hell off the phone,” Mr Pelosi said before the call ended.

Mr Pelosi then tried to escape in an elevator, which was blocked by Mr DePape, he told police.

“I told him, ‘I have other targets. I can’t be stopped right now.’ If I have to go through him, I will,” according to his interview.

Mr Pelosi tried to reassure Mr DePape that the police were not coming, according to police.

“I told him I’m not f****** stupid. And you’re not f****** stupid either,” Mr DePape said in his interview.

Ms Grives felt the call was suspicious and treated it as an emergency, dispatching police officers for an expedited "wellness check".

Audio from the 911 call was released by a California court on 27 January.

Alleged Pelosi attackers faces 13 years to life in prison if convicted

The officers arrived two minutes later at 2.31am, finding Mr Pelosi and another man apparently wrestling with a hammer. According to court documents filed by the FBI, the officers asked what was going on and the unknown man "responded that everything was good".

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 David DePape.

At a press conference later that day on 28 October, San Francisco police chief Bill Scott praised Ms Grives for her "experience and intuition", saying: "She basically figured out that there was something more to this incident than what she was being told. Her actions, in my opinion, resulted in both a higher-priority dispatch and a faster police response.”

San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins added: "I truly believe her action very well may have saved his life."

Police charge David DePape with attempted murder

On 31 October, San Francisco prosecutors charged David DePape, a 42-year-old man from nearby Richmond, California, with attempted murder, burglary, assault with a deadly weapon, elder abuse, false imprisonment of an elder, and threats against a public official and their family.

The FBI also filed a criminal complaint against Mr DePape for assault on the family member of a federal official and attempted kidnapping of a federal official.

Authorities say that Mr DePape entered the Pelosis' home by using a hammer to break through a glass door at the rear of the building, before making his way upstairs to the second floor.

There were no security guards present, because the US government currently only assigns bodyguards to top political figures themselves, and not to their families.

Once inside, Mr DePape allegedly found Mr Pelosi sleeping in bed, wearing a loose-fitting pyjama shirt and boxer shorts. He allegedly woke Mr Pelosi up and "confronted him about the whereabouts of Speaker Pelosi" – shouting, according to some reports, "where is Nancy?"

David DePape, right, records the nude wedding of Gypsy Taub outside City Hall on Dec. 19, 2013, in San Francisco
David DePape, right, records the nude wedding of Gypsy Taub outside City Hall on Dec. 19, 2013, in San Francisco (AP)

"When Pelosi told him that Nancy was not there, DePape stated that he would sit and wait," wrote the FBI agent. "Pelosi stated that his wife would not be home for several days and then DePape reiterated that he would wait."

According to the agent, Mr DePape would later tell police that he planned to tie Mr Pelosi up using zip ties he had brought with him, so that he could safely go to sleep while waiting for the Speaker's return.

That is when Mr Pelosi asked to go to the bathroom, where he knew his phone was charging. He called 911 and left the line open so that dispatchers could hear his interactions with the intruder.

‘A politically motivated kidnapping attempt’

Under questioning, Mr DePape allegedly told San Francisco police officers that he wanted to hold Ms Pelosi hostage, interrogate her, and injure her if she "lied".

"DePape articulated [that] he viewed Nancy as the 'leader of the pack' of lies told by the Democratic Party," the FBI's complaint says. "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 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."

He allegedly added that he wanted to use Ms Pelosi to lure in another person, though the FBI document does not say who.

David DePape made his first appearance in court on Tuesday where he pleaded not guilty
David DePape made his first appearance in court on Tuesday where he pleaded not guilty (California DMV/CNN)

When Mr DePape realised that Mr Pelosi had called the police, he allegedly decided to stand his ground. "DePape explained that he did not leave after Pelosi’s call because, much like the American founding fathers with the British, he was fighting against tyranny without the option of surrender," the FBI said.

The FBI agent concluded: "The facts of the investigation to date reveal that DePape was prepared to detain and injure Speaker Pelosi when he entered the Pelosi residence in the early morning of October 28, 2022. DePape had zip ties, tape, rope, and at least one hammer with him that morning."

Ms Jenkins likewise said: "It appears, based on his statements and comments that were made in that house during his encounter with Mr Pelosi, that this was politically motivated.

"He was looking for the Speaker at the time that he entered the home... [and] he certainly did enact what we believe is an attempt to murder her husband."

At an arraignment on 1 November, Mr DePape pleaded not guilty to all the state charges.

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

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

“The lies are insane,” he continued. “People in Washington. It originates with Hillary. Honestly, day in and day out, the person on TV lying every day was [Nancy] Pelosi. It’s f****** insane the crime spree the Democrats have been on, persecuting the rival campaign.”

Asked by a San Francisco Police Department lieutenant who was interrogating Mr DePape if he was referring to Mr Trump’s campaign, Mr DePape said “yes, Trump”.

“[Democrats] go from one crime to another crime. It’s a whole f****** four years. It’s unacceptable,” he said.

Suspect had colourful history among California hippies

Mr DePape is not an unknown figure in the San Francisco Bay Area. In fact, he has a colourful history.

He grew up in British Columbia, Canada, according to his stepfather Gene DePape. About 20 years ago, he moved with his twin sister to Hawaii, where he fell in love with a woman and eventually followed her to California to pursue a relationship.

That woman, according to the Canadian Globe and Mail newspaper and The San Francisco Chronicle, was famous Bay Area nudist activist Gypsy Taub, later described by SF Weekly as "a seasoned 9/11 truther, aficionado of psychedelics, and sexual free spirit”.

In 2021 she was convicted of stalking and attempting to abduct a 14-year-old boy with whom she had become obsessed, and is now in prison.

Although the relationship with Taub did not last, Mr DePape reportedly lived with Taub and her fiancé in Berkeley, became a "father figure" to her three children, and served as the best man at her wedding in 2013. He also took an active role in the local nudist movement.

Linda Schneider, 65, told The New York Times that she knew Mr DePape between 2009 and 2012, when he made a living selling hemp bracelets, lived in a storage unit in Berkeley, and would sometimes help her at her urban farm.

She described him as "painfully shy" and told CNN that he was "trying to create a new life for himself".

Neighbors of Paul Pelosi's attacker say he was a loner, and lived in a garage

By 2012, though, Ms Schneider said she cut off contact with Mr DePape after he sent her "really disturbing" emails in which he seemed "megalomaniac and so out of touch with reality", even equating himself with Jesus Christ.

"This was a guy who didn’t have a lot of internal strength. He’d follow anything a little abnormal in front of him," she said.

Mr DePape appears to have started blogging in 2007, originally posting about psychedelics and spirituality. More recently, someone using his name began posting a stream of furious far right political messages.

On two separate blogs, a user called "daviddepape" posted bigoted attacks on Jewish people, LGBT+ people, people of colour, and immigrants, as well as diatribes about Holocaust denial and climate change denial.

The user posted conspiracy theories about Covid-19 vaccines and the 2020 US election being stolen by Democrats, support for the QAnon movement, claims that LGBT+ people are "grooming" children, and a statement that "any journalist saying" there is no evidence of election fraud "should be dragged straight out into the street and shot".

In one post, "daviddepape" said he had been awoken to his present politics by Gamergate, a reactionary movement against feminism and minority representation in video games that started in 2014 and served as a proving ground for many members of the alt right.

Inti Gonzalez, a woman who describes herself as Taub's daughter, posted and then deleted a statement describing Mr DePape this way: "I love my father. He did genuinely try to be a good person but the monster in him was always too strong for him to be safe to be around."

Security issues at Pelosi’s home

Ms Pelosi’s $6m home in an exclusive neighbourhood of San Francisco has been a frequent target of protests and vandalism in recent years.

In September 2020, a man filmed himself defecating on the driveway of Ms Pelosi’s home before posting it to YouTube, the New York Post reported.

“That was for President Trump,” he said after walking off camera.

The man, described in some reports as a “homeless YouTube star”, was detained by Bay Area Rapid Transit Police, after a request from the Capitol Police department.

On New Year’s Day 2021, the Pelosis awoke to find a severed pig’s head and red paint spilled over her driveway, according to TMZ.

Unknown assailants had spraypainted “2K” in an apparent reference to stimulus checks, along with the words “cancel rent” and “we want everything”.

Paul Pelosi and Nancy Pelosi attend the TIME 100 Gala 2019 Cocktails at Jazz at Lincoln Center on April 23, 2019 in New York City
Paul Pelosi and Nancy Pelosi attend the TIME 100 Gala 2019 Cocktails at Jazz at Lincoln Center on April 23, 2019 in New York City (Jemal Countess/Getty Images for TIME)

In May, pro-choice activists from the group Ruth Sent Us targeted the Speaker’s home, demanding action on abortion rights after the leak of a draft Supreme Court decision on Roe v Wade.

They accused Ms Pelosi of “careless and cowardly” leadership in the face of the Republican Party’s “scorched earth strategy.”

The couple have lived at the address, situated in Ms Pelosi’s 12th Congressional district of California, since 2007.

Rising threats of violence across America

National security officials and law enforcement have been warning for some time about an increased threat of political violence leading into the midterm elections.

In the wake of the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v Wade, Nicholas John Roske was arrested near the home of Brett Kavanaugh in June armed with a handgun, a knife, pepper spray and burglary tools.

Mr Roske later told police he wanted to kill the conservative justice, and has been charged with attempted murder.

In July, a man armed with a pistol was arrested near Democratic Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal’s home in Seattle after he allegedly yelled racist death threats at the congresswoman, who was home with her husband at the time.

The Department of Justice is also investigating a string of violent threats towards election workers ahead of the 8 November poll.

During her 35-year career in the House of Representatives, Ms Pelosi has been a lightning rod for attacks from her political opponents.

Attack ads by Republican candidates often seek to demonise the 82-year-old, who is second in line to the presidency after the vice president.

Hate from the right

Footage released by the January 6 committee at their final hearing in October showed Ms Pelosi huddled with lawmakers inside the Capitol as rioters breached the building.

At one point, a visibly angered Ms Pelosi says of President Donald Trump: “I’m gonna punch him out.”

Never one to waver from a fight, Ms Pelosi is Republican’s favourite election year villain.

During her first term as House Speaker from 2007 to 2011, Republicans spent $65m on ads targeting the California Congresswoman in the lead up to the 2010 midterms, according to an analysis from the Campaign Media Analysis Group.

Since she regained the Speaker’s gavel in 2019, Republicans have sought to tie their Democratic opponents closely to Ms Pelosi due to the toxicity of her brand on the right in House and Senate races across the country.

Rep Marjorie Taylor Greene speaks during a campaign rally on 9 October 2022 in Mesa, Arizona
Rep Marjorie Taylor Greene speaks during a campaign rally on 9 October 2022 in Mesa, Arizona (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

In 2019, Marjorie Taylor Greene expressed support for Ms Pelosi’s execution in a Facebook Live video, according to CNN.

“She’s a traitor to our country, she’s guilty of treason,” Ms Greene said of Pelosi.

“She took an oath to protect American citizens and uphold our laws. And she gives aid and comfort to our enemies who illegally invade our land. That’s what treason is. And by our law representatives and senators can be kicked out and no longer serve in our government.

“And it’s, uh, it’s a crime punishable by death is what treason is. Nancy Pelosi is guilty of treason.”

When called to testify about the remarks during a hearing challenging her candidacy for re-election, Ms Greene said she couldn’t recall making the statements.

Amid heightened security fears after the Capitol riots, Ms Pelosi insisted on installing metal detectors to screen members entering the House chamber.

When Ms Pelosi made a controversial trip to Taiwan in August, House Republican Matt Gaetz said he didn’t believe in “photo op foreign policy”.

Nancy Pelosi’s net wealth is estimated to be $110m, mostly derived from stock trades made by her husband.

Paul Pelosi’s DUI

In May, Paul Pelosi, 82, was arrested for drink-driving after his Porsche was hit by a Jeep in a late-night  collision in Napa.

A criminal complaint stated that Mr Pelosi was operating his vehicle “while under the influence of an alcoholic beverage and a drug and under their combined influence”.

Both vehicles sustained serious damage in the crash.

Booking photo shows Paul Pelosi after he was booked for DUI on 29 May 2022
Booking photo shows Paul Pelosi after he was booked for DUI on 29 May 2022 (Napa County Department of Corrections)

Mr Pelosi spent two nights in jail. In July, he was sentenced to five days in jail and he will receive credit for two days already served and two days for good behaviour.

He was ordered to serve a one-day court work programme, pay $1,700 in fines and serve three years probation.

The court also ordered an interlock ignition device to be installed on his vehicle for one year, restitution to remain in the court’s jurisdiction and his attendance in a three-month drinking-driver class.

What did it mean for the midterms?

Republicans tried to use fear of crime in Democratic-led cities as a wedge issue as they narrowly took control of the House of Representatives in November’s midterm elections.

In competitive races in Wisconsin, Georgia, New York and Pennsylvania, Republicans have plunged tens of millions of dollars into branding their rivals as part of a “defund the police” Democrats.

NPR reported that Republicans spent $40m on crime-related political messaging in September alone.

Republicans fared far worse than most had predicted, and are on track to gain a narrow lead.

With 433 out of 435 seats called as of late November, Republicans had won 220 compared to 213 for the Democrats.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrives to speak on the House floor at the Capitol in Washington on 17 November
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrives to speak on the House floor at the Capitol in Washington on 17 November (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Nancy Pelosi steps down

On 17 November, Ms Pelosi announced in a speech to the House that she was resigning as Democratic leader but would remain a member of Congress.

She was widely lauded as one of the most effective and powerful politicians of her generation.

“The Capitol is a temple of our democracy, of our constitution and our highest ideals,” Ms Pelosi, 82, said in a speech on the House floor on Thursday.

“The hour has come for a new generation to lead the Democratic caucus,” she said. “Now we must move boldly into the future, grounded by the principles that have propelled us this far, and open to fresh possibilities for the future.”

After entering the House in 1987, Ms Pelosi became the House Democrat caucus leader in 2003, serving as speaker between 2007 and 2011 and again from 2019. She’s the first and so far only woman to ever serve in the role.

Judge orders release of body cam footage

On 25 January, a judge ordered the release of a 911 call made by Mr Pelosi on the night he was attacked along with the responding police officer’s bodyworn camera footage.

Prosecutors and Mr DePape’s lawyers had objected to the release of the evidence, claiming it would hinder his right to a fair trial and fuel misinformation about the case.

Police bodycam footage showing Paul Pelosi and an intruder, identified as David DePape, has been released by a California court
Police bodycam footage showing Paul Pelosi and an intruder, identified as David DePape, has been released by a California court (NBC Bay Area)

But San Francisco County Superior Court Judge Stephen Murphy agreed with more than a dozen media outlets who had sought their release, the Associated Press reported.

The recordings were ultimately released on 27 January.

The footage shows two San Francisco police officers arriving at the address to find Mr Pelosi, dressed in a shirt and underwear, and an intruder, identified by authorities as Mr DePape, both clutching a hammer near the front door.

“What’s going on man,” one of the officers asks.

“Everything’s good,” the suspect replies, as both men have one hand on the hammer.

The same officer shouts at the intruder to “drop the hammer”.

“Umm, nope,” he says.

Mr DePape then swings the hammer wildly at Mr Pelosi, who collapses to the ground just out of view.

The two officers then rush into the home and apprehend Mr DePape, who is standing over Mr Pelosi, seemingly attempting to deliver more blows.

Mr Pelosi can be seen lying, groaning on the ground.

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