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US Speaker of the House Pelosi's husband beat with hammer

October 28, 2022

Paul Pelosi was attacked and needed hospital treatment after an assailant broke into their San Francisco home. Reports claim the suspect was looking for US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who was in Washington at the time.

US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her husband Paul Pelosi
Pelosi's husband, Paul, was assaulted during a break-in at the couple's homeImage: Fabio Frustaci/ANS/ZUMA//picture alliance

Paul Pelosi, the husband of US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, was "violently assaulted" after a break-in at the couple's home in California on Friday.

"The assailant is in custody and the motivation for the attack is under investigation," Drew Hammill, a spokesman for Nancy Pelosi said.

Pelosi, 82, was taken to the hospital where he underwent surgery for a fractured skull and serious injuries to his hands and right arm. Doctors expect him to make a full recovery.

What do we know about the attack?

The intruder, who police identified as a 42-year-old male, shouted, "Where is Nancy? Where is Nancy?" before attacking Paul Pelosi, according to the Associated Press and CNN. 

Police said officers found the assailant at the couple's home just before 2:30 a.m. (0930 GMT), where he and Paul Pelosi were scuffling over a hammer.

US media reported that the attacker had said he was planning to tie up the husband and wait for the House speaker to return home, but Paul Pelosi was able to call the police while the man was distracted.

"When the officers arrived on scene they encountered an adult male and Mrs. Pelosi's husband, Paul," San Francisco police chief Scott told reporters, declining to take questions.

"This was not a random act. This was intentional. And it's wrong," Scott later told a news conference.

Nancy Pelosi, who as speaker of the House of Representatives is second in line to the US presidency, was not at home at the time of the early morning assault.

Who is the suspect?

San Francisco police arrested 42-year-old David DePape at the scene on suspicion of attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, elder abuse, battery, burglary, and other felonies.

Little information has been confirmed about the suspect, however, an internet user named "daviddepape" made posts on several websites about the QAnon conspiracy theory, expressing support for former President Donald Trump, making references to "satanic pedophilia," and espousing racist and anti-Semitic beliefs.

On September 27, someone posting under DePape's name said that any journalists who denied Trump's false claims of widespread voter fraud at the 2020 presidential election "should be dragged straight out into the street and shot."

DePape was known locally as a nudist activist who had picketed naked at protests against laws requiring people to be clothed in public.

On Friday, the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper published a photo of a man it identified as DePape dancing at a nudist wedding in 2013, although he himself was fully clothed. An older article from 2013 described Depepe as a "hemp jewelry maker."

His stepfather, Gene DePape, said the suspect lived with him in Canada until he was 14. He said he had not heard from his stepson since 2003, and that recent attempts to get in contact had failed.

"David was never violent that I seen and was never in any trouble although he was very reclusive and played too much video games," the stepfather said.

Pelosi's husband attacked with hammer

Circumstances of the attack unclear

The Capitol Police, responsible for protecting Congress, said it was working with the FBI and the San Francisco Police on the investigation. It is still unclear how the attacker got into the home.

Paul Pelosi suffered blunt force injuries from a hammer hitting his head and body, according to two people who spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

The attack caps a tumultuous year for her venture capitalist husband, who was convicted of drunk driving after an accident in May and sentenced to five days in jail.

"The Speaker and her family are grateful to the first responders and medical professionals involved, and request privacy at this time," Hammill said in a statement.

While the details of and possible motivation for the attack are unclear, it raises questions about the safety of members of Congress and their families.

Threats to lawmakers are at an all-time high almost two years after the Capitol insurrection on January 6, 2021. In 2021, Capitol Police investigated 9,625 threats made against members of Congress — nearly three times as many as in 2017.

The attack also came 11 days ahead of the midterm elections.

Reactions from across the political spectrum

Politicians from both major US parties expressed their shock at the attack that hospitalized Paul Pelosi. 

President Joe Biden called the act "despicable" while talking at a Democratic party rally in Pennsylvania.

"There's too much violence, political violence. Too much hatred. Too much vitriol," he said. "What makes us think it's not going to corrode the political climate? Enough is enough is enough."

"What happened to Paul Pelosi was a dastardly act," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said. "I spoke with Speaker Pelosi earlier this morning and conveyed my deepest concern and heartfelt wishes to her husband and their family, and I wish him a speedy recovery."

"The president is praying for Paul Pelosi and for Speaker Pelosi's whole family,'' White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said. "This morning he called Speaker Pelosi to express his support after this horrible attack. He is also very glad that a full recovery is expected. The president continues to condemn all violence, and asks that the family's desire for privacy be respected."

House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy said he reached out to Pelosi, while Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said he was "horrified and disgusted" by the attack.

zc, ab, lo/sms (AFP, AP, Reuters)