US charges suspect in hammer attack at Nancy Pelosi’s home

Officials say David DePape, charged with assault and attempted kidnapping, wanted to take US House speaker hostage.

Nancy and Paul Pelosi
The assault against Paul Pelosi, husband of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, has raised fears of political violence ahead of the United States midterm elections [File: Ken Cedeno/Reuters]

The United States Department of Justice has charged the suspect in a violent attack at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s home last week, accusing David DePape of threatening to take the top Democrat hostage and break “her kneecaps”.

DePape was charged with assault and attempted kidnapping on Monday, just days after he was arrested at Pelosi’s home. Police say he attacked the US legislator’s husband, Paul Pelosi, with a hammer.

While authorities have not outlined the motive behind Friday’s attack, the Justice Department charged DePape with “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”.

The charge carries a sentence of up to 30 years in jail.

DePape is also charged with “attempted kidnapping of a United States official on account of the performance of official duties”, suggesting that he may have tried to target the House speaker herself. He faces a maximum sentence of 20 years if convicted on that charge.

A veteran Democrat with decades of experience in Washington, 82-year-old Pelosi has been the leader of the House of Representatives since early 2019. She has long been a subject of criticism by Republicans.

In a chilling federal complaint, officials said DePape, carrying zip ties and tape in a backpack, broke into the couple’s San Francisco home early on Friday morning, went upstairs where Paul Pelosi was sleeping and demanded to talk to “Nancy”.

When Paul Pelosi, 82, told the intruder she was not there, DePape said he would wait — even after being told she would not be home for some days. The assailant then started taking out twist ties to tie him up, the complaint said.

The suspect told police in an interview following his arrest that he planned to hold Nancy Pelosi hostage for questioning and that if she told the “truth”, he would let her go but if she “lied”, he would break “her kneecaps”, according to the FBI affidavit.

The San Francisco district attorney and police chief both said the attack was intentional. “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,” the complaint said.

Last week, CNN reported that a Facebook page that it confirmed belonged to the suspect contained posts featuring false allegations of fraud in the 2020 elections and COVID-19 conspiracy theories. The page has been taken down, CNN reported.

A blog page with DePape’s name on it, which has also been removed, had numerous posts raging against “censorship” by “Tech giants”.

The attack at the Pelosis’s home raised fears of political violence ahead of the crucial midterm elections that will decide which party controls Congress. The incident garnered condemnations from politicians in both major parties.

nancy pelosi
Nancy Pelosi has been the leader of the House of Representatives since 2019 [File: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters]

Last week, President Joe Biden decried “hatred” in US politics as he denounced the attack on Paul Pelosi.

“There’s too much violence, political violence. Too much hatred. Too much vitriol,” Biden said at a campaign event late on Friday. “What makes us think it’s not going to corrode the political climate? Enough is enough is enough.”

Paul Pelosi suffered a skull fracture from the attack and underwent surgery last week. The House speaker’s office said he is expected to make a “full recovery”.

“Once DePape was restrained, officers secured a roll of tape, white rope, a second hammer, a pair of rubber and cloth gloves, and zip ties from the crime scene, where officers also observed a broken glass door to the back porch,” the Justice Department said on Monday.

Several state charges were filed separately in San Francisco Superior Court, including attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, burglary, elder abuse and threatening a public official, the district attorney said during a news conference.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies