Police: Pelosi suspect wanted to break speaker’s knees

Pelosi
A San Francisco Police Department vehicle parks outside the home of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, in San Francisco, Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022.
AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

By LISA MASCARO and STEFANIE DAZIO Associated Press

The man accused of attacking House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband with a hammer told police he wanted to hold the Democratic leader hostage and “break her kneecaps” to show other members of Congress there were consequences for their actions, authorities said Monday.

In a chilling federal complaint, officials say that David DePape, 42, carrying zip ties and tape in a backpack, broke into the couple’s San Francisco home early Friday morning, went upstairs where 82-year-old Paul Pelosi was sleeping and demanded to talk to “Nancy.”

When Paul Pelosi told the intruder she was not there, DePape said he would wait — even after being told she would not be home for some days.

Both the San Francisco district attorney and police chief strongly rejected mocking jokes and conspiracy theories about the attack sent out by far-right figures and even some leading Republicans just a week before hard-fought congressional elections.

DePape told police of his plans to hold Speaker Pelosi hostage to “talk to her” and viewed her “as the “leader of the pack” of lies told by the Democratic Party, the eight-page complaint says.

“If she were to tell DePape the ‘truth,’ he would let her go and if she ‘lied,’ he was going to break “her kneecaps,” the complaint alleges.

“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,” it says.

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 came as San Francisco’s district attorney was set to announce state criminal charges as well.

It was not immediately clear whether DePape had an attorney who could speak on his behalf. Family described DePape as estranged, and he was known by some in San Francisco as a pro-nudity activist who appeared to embrace a range of conspiracy theories.

The federal complaint said he has lived for the past two years in a garage at a residence in Richmond, California,

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. 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, and then DePape struck Pelosi at least once before being tackled by officers.

DePape was arrested Friday on suspicion of attempted murder, elder abuse and burglary in a gruesome attack that has amplified the toxic political climate ahead of the Nov. 8 midterm elections. He is expected to be arraigned Tuesday in San Francisco.

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 of the attack, returned swiftly to California. Unlike presidents, congressional leaders have security protection for themselves, but not their families.

In the ambulance to the hospital, Paul Pelosi told police he had never seen DePape before, the complaint said.

San Francisco’s district attorney, Brooke Jenkins, strongly rejected conspiracy theories about the attack, confirming the assailant was targeting the Democratic leader when he broke into the couple’s home.

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