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Pelosi Attacker Reportedly Told Police He Would Break Speaker’s Kneecaps as Warning to Congress

Man charged in hammer assault said that "much like the American founding fathers with the British, he was fighting against tyranny without the option of surrender," according to complaint.

The man who assaulted the husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) at their San Francisco home allegedly compared himself to a Revolutionary War fighter battling “tyranny” and told law enforcement that he intended to interrogate and likely break the kneecaps of Speaker Pelosi to “show other members of Congress there were consequences to actions.”

David Wayne DePape, 42, of Richmond, Calif., faces federal charges in connection with the Friday break-in: 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, and 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.

The criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California includes statements from Paul Pelosi, who suffered a skull fracture that required surgery, and DePape. A witness who was parked at a nearby address on a private security detail also told San Francisco police that he saw DePape wearing “all black, carrying a large black bag on his back, walking near the Pelosi residence” before hearing what “sounded like banging on either a door or car” followed a minute or two later by the sirens of officers responding to a 911 call made by Pelosi at 2:23 a.m. in which Pelosi stated that there was a male unknown to him in the home “and that the male is going to wait for Pelosi’s wife.”

Police arrived on scene at 2:31 a.m. and knocked. “When the door was opened, Pelosi and DePape were both holding a hammer with one hand and DePape had his other hand holding onto Pelosi’s forearm,” the responding officer said, according to the complaint. When the men were asked to drop the hammer, “DePape pulled the hammer from Pelosi’s hand and swung the hammer, striking Pelosi in the head.”

“Police body worn camera footage showed a glass door that appeared to be laminated glass, broken near the door handle,” the complaint continued. Police recovered zip ties in Pelosi’s bedroom and in the hallway near the front door, and a backpack DePape said he left on the porch near the broken glass allegedly contained a roll of tape, white rope, one hammer, one pair of rubber and cloth gloves, and a journal. Pelosi told police that DePape brought the hammer with him and it did not belong to the Pelosi family.

Before an ambulance took Pelosi to the hospital, he reportedly told an SFPD officer that he was asleep when DePape entered the bedroom “and stated he wanted to talk to Nancy. When Pelosi told him that Nancy was not there, DePape stated that he would sit and wait. Pelosi stated that his wife would not be home for several days and then DePape reiterated that he would wait.” Pelosi and DePape separately told officers, according to the complaint, that Pelosi was able to get to the bathroom and call 911 there.

In a Mirandized and recorded interview, DePape said “he was going to hold Nancy hostage and talk to her,” the complaint states. “If Nancy were to tell DePape the ‘truth,’ he would let her go, and if she ‘lied,’ he was going to break ‘her kneecaps.’ DePape was certain that Nancy would not have told the ‘truth.’ In the course of the interview, DePape articulated he viewed Nancy as the ‘leader of the pack’ of lies told by the Democratic Party. DePape also later explained 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. DePape also explained generally that he wanted to use Nancy to lure another individual to DePape.” That individual is not named.

DePape reportedly told officers that he used the hammer to break the glass door to enter the home, and said that after Pelosi called 911 “he felt like Pelosi’s actions compelled him to respond.”

DePape remembered thinking that there was no way the police were going to forget about the phone call,” the complaint continued. “DePape explained that he did not leave after Pelosi’s call to 9-1-1 because, much like the American founding fathers with the British, he was fighting against tyranny without the option of surrender. DePape reiterated this sentiment elsewhere in the interview.”

DePape reportedly told officers that after police arrived at the home that he “did not plan to surrender and that he would go ‘through’ Pelosi.” In explaining why he hit Pelosi in the head with the hammer, DePap said “that Pelosi’s actions resulted in Pelosi ‘taking the punishment instead,'” according to the complaint. 

At a home’s garage where DePape had lived for the past two years, law enforcement found “among other things… two hammers, a sword, and a pair of rubber and cloth gloves.” CBS News reported unnamed law enforcement sources as saying that DePape had a list of additional people he may have been planning to target, and “suspected social media posts by DePape turned up conspiracy theories about Holocaust denial, pedophiles in the government, and claims that Democratic officials run child sex rings.”

In a letter to colleagues Saturday, Speaker Pelosi said her family is “heartbroken and traumatized by the life-threatening attack” on her husband, and in thanking members of Congress for their support she added that “we… pray for the continued safety and well-being of your family.”

Pelosi’s office said the speaker’s husband “underwent successful surgery to repair a skull fracture and serious injuries to his right arm and hands” and “his doctors expect a full recovery.”

U.S. Capitol Police said Friday that special agents with the USCP’s California Field Office “quickly arrived on scene, while a team of investigators from the Department’s Threat Assessment Section was simultaneously dispatched from the East Coast to assist the FBI and the San Francisco Police with a joint investigation.”

Bridget Johnson
Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a terrorism analyst and security consultant with a specialty in online open-source extremist propaganda, incitement, recruitment, and training. She hosts and presents in Homeland Security Today law enforcement training webinars studying a range of counterterrorism topics including conspiracy theory extremism, complex coordinated attacks, critical infrastructure attacks, arson terrorism, drone and venue threats, antisemitism and white supremacists, anti-government extremism, and WMD threats. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15 and a private investigator. Bridget is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera, BBC and SiriusXM.

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