Paul Pelosi’s attacker tried to take the speaker hostage, prosecutors say
SAN FRANCISCO, Oct. 31 – The man accused of bludgeoning the husband of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with a hammer after forcing his way into the couple’s home has threatened to hold her hostage and breaking her kneecaps if she lied during his questioning, according to a federal criminal complaint filed Monday.
David Wayne DePape’s alleged intentions emerged as federal prosecutors charged the 42-year-old suspect with assault and attempted kidnapping in Friday’s burglary of the Pelosis’ San Francisco home.
Several state charges were filed separately in San Francisco Superior Court, including attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, burglary, elder abuse and threatening a public official, District Attorney Brooke Jenkins announced at a news conference.
The 82-year-old Speaker of the US House of Representatives, a Democrat who is second in line to take the US presidency, was in Washington at the time of the attack. Her husband, Paul Pelosi, 82, a real estate and venture capital executive, was hospitalized while recovering from fractured skulls and injuries to his hands and right arm.
Doctors expect a full recovery, the spokesman’s office said.
The incident, which Jenkins described as “politically motivated,” has fueled fears of extremist partisan violence ahead of the Nov. 8 midterm elections that will decide control of Congress during one of the most hateful and polarized US campaigns in decades.
As one of Washington’s highest-ranking Democrats and a longtime representative of one of America’s most liberal cities, Nancy Pelosi was a frequent lightning rod for conservative criticism and contempt.
Her office was ransacked during the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol by a mob of supporters of then-Republican President Donald Trump, some of whom were hunting for her during the scuffle.
WAKE BY STRANGERS
According to an FBI affidavit filed as part of the federal criminal complaint, DePape was arrested by police officers who were dispatched to the speaker’s home after her spouse placed an 911 call reporting an intruder.
The San Francisco Police Department recovered zip ties in the bedroom and hallway near the front door. Police also found a roll of duct tape, a rope, a hammer, a pair of gloves and a journal in DePape’s backpack, the affidavit said.
Paul Pelosi, who was initially unconscious from the attack, later told police he fell asleep when a stranger armed with a hammer snuck into his bedroom and woke him up and demanded to speak to his wife, the complaint says .
According to Paul Pelosis in the affidavit, he told the intruder that his wife would be gone for several days, and the intruder replied that he would stay and wait for her. Pelosi’s husband said he managed to sneak into the bathroom to make the 911 call, the affidavit said.
The suspect told police in an interview after his arrest that he planned to hold Nancy Pelosi hostage for questioning and that he would let her go if she told the “truth,” but if she “lied,” would he break her kneecaps, according to the FBI affidavit.
He told police he did not flee the Pelosi home after Paul Pelosi’s 911 call because, according to the affidavit, he “fought against tyranny much like the American Founding Fathers did with the British, without an opportunity to surrender.” .
Authorities said police officers who arrived at the Pelosi home saw DePape and Pelosi fighting over a gavel. As officers yelled at both men to drop the tool, DePape snatched the hammer away and hit Pelosi before officers overpowered DePape and took him into custody.
DePape was charged in federal court with assaulting a family member of a US official and attempting to kidnap a US official. Prosecutors claimed the crimes stemmed from the suspects’ intent to exact revenge on the Speaker of the House for her “performance of official duties.”
The federal charges carry a combined maximum sentence of 50 years in prison, the Justice Department said in a statement announcing the charges. The state charges carry a life sentence of 13 years, Jenkins said.
Online messages recently posted to multiple websites by a netizen named “daviddepape” expressed bigoted sentiments towards minorities, Jews, women and transgender people while embracing the cult-like right-wing conspiracy theory QAnon.
Older online news promoted quartz crystals and hemp bracelets. Reuters could not confirm that the posts were made by the suspect charged on Monday.
Experts on extremist ideology have said Friday’s attack appeared to be an example of a growing trend they call “stochastic terrorism,” in which sometimes vulnerable individuals are targeted by hate speech and scenarios they see online and by public figures be heard, be inspired to violence. Continue reading
Reporting by Paresh Dave in San Francisco and Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Additional reporting from Sarah N. Lynch in Washington, Brendan O’Brien in Chicago and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Edited by Howard Goller and Rosalba O’Brien
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