- David DePape allegedly ignored security cameras and 911 call to fight ‘tyranny.’
- Paul Pelosi called 911 as DePape watched and police officers arrived within minutes.
- DePape faces 13 years to life in prison if convicted of state charges including attempted murder.
Paul Pelosi awoke twice in the early hours of Oct. 28. The first time he groggily discovered a hammer-wielding intruder in his bedroom asking for his wife, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The second time, he regained consciousness in a pool of his own blood, having suffered a fractured skull grappling with the assailant in front of police.
State and federal prosecutors who charged the suspect – David DePape, 42, of Richmond, California – with attempting to murder Paul Pelosi said he was on a suicide mission, threatening to kneecap Nancy Pelosi and hunt down other unspecified public officials, according to court documents.
“It is certainly something that has unnerved us all,” San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins told reporters of the attack, referring to tragedies with past political leaders such as the such as the 1978 assassinations of San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and city Supervisor Harvey Milk. “It’s something we have to take very seriously.”
DePape, who is being held at the San Francisco County Jail, faces 13 years to life in prison if convicted of state charges including attempted murder, burglary and elder abuse. He has pleaded not guilty and has a hearing scheduled Friday. Federal prosecutors charged him with assault on a relative of a federal official and attempted kidnapping of a federal official.
Here is what we know about the attack that began just after 2 a.m., from court records and news conferences, as authorities piece together police reports, video from body-worn cameras, a recording of the 911 call and other evidence:
A break-in, a startling wake-up and then a question: ‘Where’s Nancy?’
David DePape allegedly said he knew he would be caught on Ring security cameras positioned around the exterior of the Pacific Heights house. But he was surprised to find Paul Pelosi, 82, still asleep after the noise he made smashing the window of a glass door to get inside.
Pelosi, who was sleeping in a pajama top and boxer shorts, startled awake to find DePape allegedly standing over him with a hammer in his right hand and several white zip ties in his left hand.
“Are you Paul Pelosi?” DePape allegedly asked. “Where’s Nancy? Where’s Nancy?”
Pelosi responded groggily after being awakened. “She’s not here,” he said.
“Well, when is she coming back?” DePape asked.
“She’s in Washington, she’s not going to be back for a couple of days,” Pelosi said.
DePape then threatened to tie up Paul Pelosi about 10 times.
“OK, well, I’m going to tie you up,” DePape said.
Paul Pelosi stood up and tried to leave by an elevator near the bedroom, but DePape held the door and prevented his escape. DePape later told police he blocked the door because he thought it led to a safe room.
Pelosi then sat back down on the bed and asked why DePape wanted to see his wife.
“Well, she’s No. 2 in line for the presidency, right?” DePape allegedly said. “We’ve got to take them all out.”
Pelosi asked if he could call anyone for DePape, but he allegedly “ominously responded that it was the end of the road for Mr. Pelosi.”
‘Uh, I’ve got a problem’: Paul Pelosi calls 911 with DePape watching
Pelosi then asked to use the bathroom, which DePape allowed. Pelosi’s cellphone was charging in the bathroom, so he turned it on and called 911 at 2:23 a.m. and put the phone on its speaker function.
DePape later told police he knew the call was being recorded, but felt Pelosi had pushed him into a corner by making the call. DePape watched him from about 3 feet away while still holding the hammer and zip ties. During the call, Pelosi explained to the dispatcher a man was waiting for Nancy Pelosi to come back, but that she wouldn’t be back for about a day. DePape gestured and told Pelosi to get off the phone.
To defuse the situation, Paul Pelosi told the dispatcher that he did not need police, fire or medical assistance. But Pelosi then asked for Capitol Police because they are usually at the house protecting his wife. The San Francisco police dispatcher, Heather Grives, said he called city police and Pelosi said he understood.
“I don’t know, what do you think?” Pelosi asked DePape. Another man was heard responding: “Everything’s good.”
“Uh, he thinks everything’s good,” Pelosi told Grives. “Uh, I’ve got a problem, but he thinks everything’s good.”
The dispatcher told Pelosi to call back if he changed his mind.
“No, no, no, this gentleman just uh came into the house uh and he wants to wait for my wife to come home,” Pelosi said.
The dispatcher asked if Pelosi knew the man and he said he didn’t. The dispatcher then asked for Pelosi’s name and address, which Pelosi gave him. DePape then told him to put the phone down.
The dispatcher asked for the man’s name and he replied, “My name is David.” When the dispatcher asked who David is, Paul Pelosi said he didn’t know.
“I’m a friend of theirs,” DePape said.
But Pelosi said again he didn’t know the man.
“No, he wants me to get the hell off the phone,” Pelosi said.
The dispatcher offered to stay on the line, but sent police officers to the house when the intruder forced Pelosi to hang up. The dispatcher issued an “A” priority well-being check.
‘I can take you out’: Pelosi and DePape go downstairs, a struggle occurs, then police arrive
After the call, DePape said he was tired and needed to sleep. But he also said he had a backpack downstairs with “a whole bunch of stuff inside,” according to court records.
DePape walked behind Pelosi as they headed downstairs. Turning on the lights, Pelosi could see where DePape entered the house. DePape allegedly said he had to bash windows in the glass door several times to break through.
DePape said the police would be there any minute. Pelosi tried to calm him down by saying they wouldn’t.
“I can take you out,” DePape said.
DePape came around Pelosi with the hammer in his right hand. Pelosi, who feared DePape would strike him, grabbed the hammer’s handle.
At 2:31 a.m. – about two minutes after the 911 call ended – Police Officers Kolby Wilmes and Kyle Cagney arrived at the house. Wilmes rang the doorbell, but DePape told Pelosi not to open it.
Pelosi opened the door with his left hand. In the dimly lit foyer, Pelosi nervously but calmly greeted the officers.
“Everything’s good,” DePape replied, when the officers asked what was going on.
When an officer turned on his flashlight, police could see DePape was holding the hammer with one hand and Pelosi’s right arm with the other. Pelosi had his hand on the top of the hammer.
“Drop the hammer!” one officer said.
“Um, nope,” DePape allegedly replied, and raised the hammer. DePape allegedly then tried to pull the hammer away from Pelosi and wrenched his right arm.
At the same time, Pelosi said: “Hey, hey, hey.” But he couldn’t keep his grip on the hammer.
“What is going on here?” an officer asked.
DePape allegedly wrestled the hammer away from Pelosi, stepped back and lunged for Pelosi, striking him in the head with full force.
The blow knocked Pelosi unconscious. The two officers rushed into the house and tackled DePape and disarmed him.
Pelosi remained unresponsive about 3 minutes. He woke up in a pool of his own blood.
“The suspect pulled the hammer away from Mr. Pelosi and violently assaulted him with it,” San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott told reporters. “Our officers immediately tackled the suspect, disarmed him, took him into custody, requested emergency backup and rendered medical aid.”
Fire Department medics took Pelosi to San Francisco General Hospital, where he had surgery for a skull fracture and serious injuries to his right arm and hands.
San Francisco Police Officer Ariane Starks interviewed Pelosi in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. Pelosi said he didn’t know DePape. In another interview two days later, Paul Pelosi said the hammer didn’t belong to his family.
DePape’s lawyer, deputy public defender Adam Lipson, told reporters after a detention hearing the suspect suffered a dislocated shoulder “during his arrest.”
DePape ‘came here to have a little chat’ with Nancy Pelosi
Once the scuffle ended, San Francisco Police officers asked if anyone else was in the house. DePape allegedly said he acted alone. He looked at the glass door and allegedly said that was where he broke in. The laminated glass was broken near the door handle.
Police found a cellphone, cash, “clipper” cards for San Francisco’s transit system and an unidentified card from the right pocket of DePape’s shorts. When they asked for his identification, he allegedly said it might be in his backpack on the back porch, near the broken door.
In the backpack, police found a second hammer, a laptop and more bags of zip ties. The backpack also contained a journal, roll of tape, white rope and two pairs of gloves, one rubber and one cloth. A day later, during the search of a Richmond garage where DePape was staying, FBI agents seized two hammers, a sword, motor vehicle paperwork, IRS letters and Paypal credit cards.
DePape allegedly explained to officers and medics at the scene what he tried to accomplish.
“I’m sick of the insane f—— level of lies coming out of Washington, D.C.,” DePape said. “I came here to have a little chat with his wife.”
DePape allegedly admitted he intended to take Nancy Pelosi hostage and “break her kneecaps” if she “lied” to him. Then she could be “wheeled into Congress, which would show other members of Congress there were consequences to actions,” according to court records.
DePape said hurting Paul Pelosi wasn’t his goal.
“I didn’t really want to hurt him, but you know this was a suicide mission,” DePape allegedly added. “I’m not going to stand here and do nothing even if it cost me my life.”
“I told him before I attacked him, that he’s escalating things and I will go through him if I have to,” DePape allegedly said.
While chatting in the bedroom, DePape allegedly told Pelosi he couldn’t be stopped because he had other targets. DePape later allegedly told police his targets included a local professor, several prominent state and federal politicians and relatives of those officials.
“There has also been a lot of speculation regarding Mr. DePape’s vulnerability to misinformation,” said Lipson, his lawyer. “That’s certainly something we’re going to look into, that we’re going to delve into, as his defense team.”
Scott, the police chief, said the department is working with Capitol Police to make the house more secure.
“This has shaken a lot of people,” he said.
DePape allegedly explained to investigators why he didn’t leave after Paul Pelosi called 911. FBI Special Agent Stephanie Minor said DePape compared his efforts to “the American founding fathers with the British, he was fighting against tyranny without the option of surrender.”