Feds, state charge Paul Pelosi attacker; suspect intended to hold Nancy Pelosi hostage

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A 42-year-old man, who allegedly targeted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a break-in at her San Francisco home, was charged Monday with a raft of charges by state and federal authorities, including attempted murder, assault and attempted kidnapping in connection with the violent attack on her husband, telling police he intended to hold the speaker hostage.

In announcing the charges against David DePape, the Justice Department said the suspect told police after assaulting Paul Pelosi with a hammer that he had been looking for the speaker and had planned to break "her kneecaps" if she failed to respond to his questions truthfully.

"In the course of the interview, DePape articulated he viewed Nancy as the 'leader of the pack' of lies told by the Democratic Party," the federal affidavit states. "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."

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David DePape is shown in Berkeley, Calif.,on Friday, Dec. 13, 2013. An intruder attacked and severely beat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's husband with a hammer in the couple's San Francisco home early Friday, while searching for the Democratic leader. Police were called to the home to check on Paul Pelosi when they discovered the 82-year-old and the suspect, DePape, both grabbing onto the hammer, said Police Chief William Sco

Federal authorities charged DePape with one count of assault of an immediate family member of a United States official with the intent to retaliate against the official, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison. He also is accused of one count of attempted kidnapping of a United States official on account of the performance of official duties, punishable by a maximum 20-year sentence.

San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins followed the federal announcement, unveiling charges of attempted murder, elderly abuse, threats to a public official and other local charges.

"It appears as though this was politically motivated," Jenkins said at an evening briefing in San Francisco.

The federal affidavit describes the bizarre conduct of the suspect, who broke into the house through a glass door and confronted Pelosi in an upstairs bedroom.

DePape, carrying a backpack containing a tape, rope, a second hammer, gloves and zip ties, allegedly roused Pelosi from sleep, saying he was "looking for Nancy."

When Pelosi told him the speaker was not at home, the suspect allegedly removed the zip ties, stating that he intended to restrain Pelosi so that DePape "could go to sleep" because he was tired from carrying the backpack to the home.

Pelosi, according to court documents, engaged the suspect in conversation before moving to a bathroom where he "grabbed a phone" and called 911.

Suspect who attacked Nancy Pelosi's husband with hammer faces attempted homicide charges
Suspect who attacked Nancy Pelosi's husband with hammer faces attempted homicide charges

More: San Francisco DA: Dispatcher's handling of Paul Pelosi's 911 call 'may have saved his life'

DePape allegedly told police that he was aware that Pelosi had called police, but elected not to flee because, he was "fighting against tyranny without the option of surrender."

The two later went downstairs, where Pelosi opened the door when police arrived and grabbed the hammer held by DePape.

Police ordered DePape to drop the hammer, but the suspect told police that he "did not plan to surrender" and then struck Pelosi.

"DePape explained that Pelosi’s actions resulted in Pelosi 'taking the punishment instead,'" the affidavit stated. 

During a Saturday search of the Richmond, California, garage where DePape had been living for two years, police recovered two hammers, a sword, and a pair of rubber and cloth gloves.

More: 'Heartbroken and traumatized': Nancy Pelosi shares first comments since attack on her husband Paul Pelosi

The stunning attack, coming just more than week before the midterm elections underscored a recent surge in threats against public officials in an increasingly divisive political environment.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and her husband, Paul Pelosi, arrive at the State Department for the Kennedy Center Honors State Department Dinner, on Dec. 7, 2019, in Washington.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and her husband, Paul Pelosi, arrive at the State Department for the Kennedy Center Honors State Department Dinner, on Dec. 7, 2019, in Washington.

On the day of the Pelosi assault, federal authorities issued the government’s strongest warning yet of the “heightened threat” to the midterm elections posed by violent extremists.

“The most plausible DVE (domestic violent extremist) threat is posed by lone offenders who leverage election-related issues to justify violence,” according to the five-page bulletin issued by Department of Homeland Security, FBI, National Counterterrorism Center and U.S. Capitol Police. “Enduring perceptions of election fraud related to the 2020 general election continue to contribute to the radicalization of some DVEs, and likely would increase their sensitivity to any new claims perceived as reaffirming their belief that US elections are corrupt.”

The multiagency response to the Pelosi attack involving the FBI and Capitol Police, along with local San Francisco authorities, highlighted the deep concern for public officials and their families.

“We assess that election-related perceptions of fraud and DVE reactions to divisive topics will likely drive sporadic DVE plotting of violence and broader efforts to justify violence in the lead up to and following the 2022 midterm election cycle,” the bulletin stated. “Some DVEs continue to amplify narratives related to the perception of fraud in the 2020 general election and varied perceptions of divisive topics linked to the midterms to justify calls for violence.”

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Feds charge Paul Pelosi attacker with assault, attempted kidnapping