Pelosi attack: intruder shouted ‘Where is Nancy?’ in brutal hammer assault on US House speaker’s husband
- The question was a chilling echo of chants by Trump supporters who searched menacingly for the top Democratic senator during the US Capitol attack
- Suspect David Depape is in custody after allegedly breaking into the couple’s home and beating Paul Pelosi, who needed surgery for a skull fracture
The intruder who attacked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband in their San Francisco home was searching for the Democratic leader, shouting “Where is Nancy, where is Nancy?” before assaulting Paul Pelosi with a hammer early on Friday.
That was a chilling echo of the chants during the January 6, 2021, insurrection at the Capitol, when rioters trying to stop Joe Biden’s election searched menacingly through the halls for the speaker.
Police were called to the home to check on Paul Pelosi at about 2.30am when they discovered the 82-year-old and the suspect, 42-year-old David Depape, both grabbing onto the hammer, said Police Chief William Scott. The intruder yanked it from Pelosi and began beating him before being subdued and arrested by officers.
The intruder had confronted his victim shouting for the speaker’s whereabouts, according to a person briefed on the situation.
The speaker was in Washington, where she had been expected to appear with Vice-President Kamala Harris at a fundraising event Saturday night for the LGBTQ group Human Rights Campaign, 11 days before congressional elections that have been filled with harsh, sometimes violent rhetoric. Pelosi cancelled her appearance.
Police said a motive for Friday’s intrusion was still being determined, but three people with knowledge of the investigation said that Depape targeted Pelosi’s home.
Those people were not authorised to talk publicly about an ongoing probe and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Police gave few details on the suspect or his motives. But the attack raised 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. In the current midterm election campaigns, crime and public safety have emerged as top concerns among Americans.
Paul Pelosi underwent surgery to repair a skull fracture and serious injuries to his right arm and hands, the speaker’s office said. His doctors expect a full recovery.
In 2021, Capitol Police investigated around 9,600 threats made against members of Congress, and members have been physically attacked in recent years.
Former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head at an event outside a Tucson grocery store in 2011, and congressman Steve Scalise was severely injured when a gunman opened fire on a Republican congressional baseball team practice in 2017.
Members of Congress have received additional dollars for security at their homes, but some have pushed for yet more protection as people have shown up at their homes and as members have received an increasing number of threatening communications.
Often at Nancy Pelosi’s side during formal events in Washington, Paul Pelosi is a wealthy investor who largely remains on the West Coast. They have five adult children and many grandchildren. The two have been married 59 years.
Earlier this year, Paul Pelosi pleaded guilty to misdemeanour driving under the influence charges related to a May crash in California’s wine country and was sentenced to five days in jail and three years of probation.
President Joe Biden and lawmakers from both parties reacted to the assault with shock and expressed their well wishes to the Pelosi family.
“What happened to Paul Pelosi was a dastardly act,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. “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.”
“We have been to many events with the Pelosis over the last 2 decades and we’ve had lots of occasions to talk about both of our families and the challenges of being part of a political family. Thinking about the Pelosi family today,” tweeted Republican Senator Roy Blunt.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that President Joe Biden has also been in contact with Nancy Pelosi.
“The president is praying for Paul Pelosi and for Speaker Pelosi’s whole family,” 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.”
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said on Twitter: “Horrified and disgusted by the reports that Paul Pelosi was assaulted in his and Speaker Pelosi’s home last night. Grateful to hear that Paul is on track to make a full recovery and that law enforcement including our stellar Capitol Police are on the case.”
At the Capitol Democratic Senator Pat Leahy of Vermont, who is third in line of succession, said he had known Paul Pelosi “forever”. He said, “It’s just horrible.”
The Pelosi home in the wealthy Pacific Heights neighbourhood has been the scene of several protests in the past few years. After Nancy Pelosi was seen on video getting her hair done at a salon while many were shut down during the coronavirus pandemic, stylists protested outside with curling irons.
Members of the Chinese community protested outside recently before Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan. And during debates over the federal stimulus package, protesters scrawled anarchy signs in black paint across the garage door, along with “cancel rent” and “we want everything”. They left a pig’s head on the driveway.