Paul Pelosi Attacker Wanted to Break Nancy’s Kneecaps, Police Say

The man who police say attacked the House Speaker's husband told them he’d planned to torture Nancy if she didn’t answer his questions the way he wanted.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi delivers remarks to the press before her meeting with Israeli President Isaac Herzog at the U.S. Capitol October 25, 2022 in Washington, DC.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi delivers remarks to the press before her meeting with Israeli President Isaac Herzog at the U.S. Capitol October 25, 2022 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

The man who broke into Nancy Pelosi’s home and attacked her husband had a plan to torture the House Speaker, according to federal court documents filed Monday. 

David DePape, 42, allegedly wanted to take Pelosi hostage—he perceived her as the “leader of the pack” of lying Democrats—and “talk to her.” 

If Pelosi told him “the truth”, he’d let her go. If she “lied,” he’d break her kneecaps. This, DePape told police, would send a message to other members of Congress that “there were consequences to actions.” 

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VICE News reported Friday that DePape left a trail of online hate and appeared to ascribe to a grab bag of far-right conspiracy theories, including Pizzagate, Holocaust denial, and anti-LGBTQ “grooming” narratives. He also railed against the government, promoted COVID-19 disinformation, and went on long rants targeting women and minorities. 

Additional details about Friday’s brutal attack at Pelosi’s San Francisco home were revealed in a federal complaint charging DePape with federal assault and attempted kidnapping. 

The new details come almost entirely from DePape himself, who gave an interview to the San Francisco Police Department after being read his Miranda rights. Paul Pelosi, whom DePape allegedly bludgeoned with a hammer, remains hospitalized in the ICU, where he’s recovering from skull surgery following the assault. 

DePape told investigators that he broke into Pelosi’s residence using a hammer, through the back door, which is made of glass. He woke up Paul Pelosi, 82, who was in bed at the time and appeared “surprised.” 

Paul Pelosi told investigators that DePape came into his bedroom while he was sleeping and stated that he “wanted to talk to Nancy.” 

Pelosi told DePape that Nancy wasn’t home, and asked him what he wanted to do. 

DePape said that he wanted to tie him up so that he could go to sleep “as he was tired from having had to carry a backpack” to their home. He began taking out zip ties from his pocket so he could restrain Pelosi. 

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Pelosi got up and tried to move into a different part of the house, eventually getting into a bathroom where he had a phone to call 911. 

DePape told police that Pelosi’s actions “compelled him to respond.” He expected police to come, but told investigators “much like the American Founding Fathers with the British, he was fighting against tyranny without the option of surrender.” Court documents state that he “reiterated this sentiment elsewhere in the interview.” 

The chain of events that DePape described that led to him striking Pelosi with the hammer are slightly confusing. At some point, DePape threatened Pelosi with the hammer, telling him he wouldn’t surrender and would go “through” Pelosi with it.

Police said that when they arrived, they saw the two men struggling for control of the hammer—each had a hand on the weapon. “The officers asked them what was going on,” prosecutors wrote in court documents. “DePape responded that everything was good.” Officers asked them to drop the hammer. At this point, DePape grabbed it and told investigators that he “swung it” toward Pelosi. 

Law enforcement found DePape’s backpack at the Pelosi residence, which contained, among other things, a roll of tape, rope, a hammer, several pairs of gloves, and a journal. According to CBS News, DePape had a list of additional targets. 

They also discovered zip ties in Pelosi’s bedroom and in the hallway by the front door. 

In addition to the federal charges, DePape is facing local charges of attempted homicide and elder abuse. 

According to the federal court documents, DePape was residing in a garage in Richmond, California, about 18 miles from San Francisco. When investigators searched his residence, they discovered a sword and two hammers.