Authorities on Monday levied federal charges of assault and attempted kidnapping against David DePape, 42, the man accused of attacking Paul Pelosi, husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, inside their San Francisco home last week.
“DePape is charged with one count of assault of an immediate family member of a United States official with the intent to retaliate against the official on account of the performance of official duties, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison,” a release from the Justice Department read in part. “DePape is also charged with one count of attempted kidnapping of a United States official on account of the performance of official duties, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.”
Paul Pelosi, 82, was attacked in the early morning hours last Friday by a man, later identified as DePape, who was wielding a hammer. The intruder specifically targeted Pelosi's home and shouted, "Where is Nancy? Where is Nancy?" before attacking Paul Pelosi with the hammer, authorities said.
DePape "had zip ties, tape, rope, and at least one hammer with him that morning," and that he attacked Paul Pelosi with his own hammer, per court documents released Monday.
According to court documents, DePape allegedly said he sought to "hold Nancy hostage and talk to her."
"If Nancy were to tell DEPAPE the 'truth,' he would let her go, and if she 'lied,' he was going to break 'her kneecaps,'" the documents read. "DEPAPE was certain that Nancy would not have told the 'truth.'"
The complaint goes on to detail 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."
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.
Nancy Pelosi was in Washington at the time of the attack, authorities said.
San Francisco police Chief Bill Scott told reporters that officers were called to the Pelosi home around 2:30 a.m. When they entered, they saw DePape and Paul Pelosi “both holding a hammer.” DePape then pulled the hammer from Paul Pelosi and “violently assaulted” him with it before officers tackled and disarmed the suspect, according to Scott.
In a statement late Monday, Speaker Pelosi said her family was “most grateful” for "thousands of messages conveying concern, prayers and warm wishes." Her husband underwent surgery for a fractured skull and other injuries after the attack. She said he was making “steady progress on what will be a long recovery process.”
Speaker Pelosi penned a “Dear Colleague” letter on Saturday to thank members of Congress for their support.
“Yesterday morning, a violent man broke into our family home, demanded to confront me and brutally attacked my husband Paul,” the letter read in part. “Our children, our grandchildren and I are heartbroken and traumatized by the life-threatening attack on our Pop. We are grateful for the quick response of law enforcement and emergency services, and for the life-saving medical care he is receiving.”
The speaker added that her husband’s condition “continues to improve,” and that the outpouring of prayers are “helping Paul make progress with his recovery.”
The beating of the speaker’s husband follows other attacks and threats. This summer, a man carrying a gun, a knife and zip ties was arrested near Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s house in Maryland after threatening to kill the justice. In 2017, Republican Rep. Steve Scalise was seriously injured when a Bernie Sanders supporter opened fire on Republicans at a congressional baseball game practice.
"Elected officials have a hard enough job as it is," Chief Bill Scott, San Francisco Police Department, told Spectrum News. "And the fact that people's families are being put at risk – it's wrong. "It's wrong, and it needs to stop."
"These things are harmful to society," Scott added. "They're harmful to the victims involved. It's really sad that we are here in this place, but here we are."
Jon Lewis, a research fellow at the George Washington University Program on Extremism, told Spectrum News that violence that stems from political rhetoric "stops two clicks short of incitement."
"Individuals who were following every word of what these individuals are saying read it as a call to action, and read it as a call to arms," Lewis warned.
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.
“At the time that the suspect had entered the Pelosi home that he was in fact, looking for Ms. Pelosi,” Jenkins told reporters late Sunday in San Francisco.
“We have nothing to suggest that these two men knew each other prior to this incident,” she said.
The district attorney’s remarks came as the attack on the husband of the House speaker was being mocked and dismissed in conservative, far-right social media, even among some Republican leaders. San Francisco’s police chief has also said the attack was targeted at Nancy Pelosi.
Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., was among those making light of the attack on Paul Pelosi, tweeting out a joke about a Halloween costume of the incident.