FBI affidavit reveals Pelosi assailant intended to break House speaker’s ‘kneecaps’

Law enforcement statements detail what unfolded when David DePape, who has been charged with attempted murder and attempted kidnapping, broke into the senior Democrat’s San Francisco home

Pelosi assailant
David DePape, in a photograph from 2013.Michael Short (AP)
Miguel Jiménez

The statement of the FBI agent assigned to the case has dispelled any doubts over the political motivation behind the attack on Paul Pelosi, the husband of US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The businessman, 82, was assaulted with a hammer at the couple’s San Francisco home on October 28 and subsequently underwent successful surgery to “repair a skull fracture and serious injuries to his right arm and hands,” according to a statement released by the senior Democrat’s spokesman. According to the FBI statement the assailant, David DePape, had gone to the residence looking for Nancy Pelosi with the intention of holding her husband hostage while he interrogated the politician, who he described as the “leader of the pack” of Democratic Party “lies.” According to DePape, if Pelosi told him “the truth” he intended to let her go unharmed, but he was convinced that would not be the case. If she “lied,” he said he would “break her kneecaps” so she would have to attend Congress in a wheelchair to send a warning to other lawmakers that their actions have consequences.

DePape confessed to these intentions during an interview recorded by officers of the San Francisco Police Department. He was charged on October 31 with assault and intended kidnapping by the US Department of Justice, and the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office has announced it will press additional charges of attempted murder among other offenses.

DePape stated that he gained access to the Pelosi’s property by breaking a glass door with a hammer. Paul Pelosi was in bed and the assailant awakened him asking where his wife was. Pelosi replied that the House speaker was out of town and would not return for a few days, asking DePape hat he wanted and how the situation might be resolved. DePape replied that he wanted to tie Pelosi up so that he could go to sleep as he was tired. He then produced some zip ties from his pocket and instructed Pelosi to move to a different part of the house. The businessman attempted to enter the elevator, which contains a telephone, but DePape stopped him and told him to return to the bedroom.

At that point, Pelosi was able to go to the bathroom and call 911, according to an FBI affidavit unsealed on Monday. During the call, made at 2.23am on Friday morning, Pelosi told the responder that there was a man called David in his house who he did not know and whose intention was to wait for his wife to return.

Nancy Pelosi and Paul Pelosi at the Time 100 Gala at Lincoln Center in New York on April 23, 2019.
Nancy Pelosi and Paul Pelosi at the Time 100 Gala at Lincoln Center in New York on April 23, 2019. ANGELA WEISS (AFP)

“Surrender was not an option”

DePape told the investigators that he did not leave the house after the call to police because “like the American founding fathers with the British, I was fighting against tyranny and surrender was not an option.” At 2.31am, San Francisco PD officers arrived at the Pelosi residence and rang the doorbell. Pelosi ran to answer and the officer saw both men gripping a hammer with one hand while DePape was gripping Pelosi’s forehand with his other hand.

The officers asked what was happening and DePape replied that everything was fine. The police asked that both men release their grip on the hammer, at which point DePape swung the instrument and struck Pelosi in the head, according to the affidavit, which is consistent with the interview conducted by the San Francisco PD. DePape later said that Pelosi’s actions in calling the emergency services meant that he “had to take the punishment instead [of the House speaker].”

The officers restrained DePape, while Pelosi appeared to lay unconscious on the floor. Once he was subdued, DePape provided his full name. When asked for ID, the assailant said it was possible it was in a backpack he had left at the rear of the property. Body camera footage taken by the officers as they led DePape away show what appears to be a laminated glass door broken near the handle. The San Francisco PD recovered zip ties from Pelosi’s bedroom and the hallway near the front door. Among the items found in DePape’s backpack when officers opened it were a roll of duct tape, rope, a second hammer, a pair of rubber and cloth gloves, according to a Department of Justice release.

DePape faces a raft of federal and state charges including one count of assault of an immediate family member of a US official with the intent to retaliate against the official, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years. He has also been charged with attempted kidnapping of a US official, for which the maximum sentence is 20 years.

San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins confirmed that DePape will also face state charges of attempted murder, among others. “Violence like this has no place in San Francisco or in politics,” she said, adding that the attack was politically motivated.

The investigation revealed that DePape had been living in the garage of a residence in Shasta Street in Richmond, California. The owner of the property confirmed that he had been there for approximately two years. Law enforcement officials searched the property on October 29 and discovered two hammers, a sword and a pair of rubber and cloth gloves, as well as documentation confirming DePape as the occupier of the garage.

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