Footage released of hammer attack on Nancy Pelosi’s husband

Police video shows Paul Pelosi, husband of former US House speaker, attacked with a hammer in their San Francisco home in 2022.

Nancy and Paul Pelosi sit side by side at an event
Nancy and Paul Pelosi attend a White House event honouring California's Golden State Warriors basketball team. Paul Pelosi has taken to wearing a hat at public events, following a skull fracture sustained during an October home invasion [File: Leah Millis/Reuters]

Footage of the attack on Paul Pelosi, husband of the former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, has been made public on Friday morning, following petitions from news agencies to release the video and emergency services call.

The video shows the events of October 28, 2022, when 42-year-old David DePape allegedly broke into the Pelosis’ residence in San Francisco, California, in what he has said was an attempt to assault the top Democrat, who was not at home at the time.

Instead, DePape encountered 82-year-old Paul Pelosi, beating him with a hammer and leaving Pelosi with a fractured skull, as well as injuries to his arms and hands. Pelosi survived his injuries but has been seen wearing a hat and gloves in public following the attack.

The images released on Friday include body-camera footage from the police who first arrived at the Pelosis’ house. Some of the footage had been previously shown in a preliminary hearing in open court last month.

“What’s going on, man?” an officer can be heard saying, as body-camera footage shows the two men — DePape in a pull-over sweater, Pelosi in a long striped shirt and dark sleep shorts — engaged in a tug-of-war over a hammer.

“Everything’s good,” DePape responds. The officer commands the men to “drop the hammer,” before asking, “What is going on right here?” It is at that point that DePape regains control of the hammer and takes a dramatic swing at Paul Pelosi, who tries to escape the blow.

The video does not show the moment of impact. Police rush forward to subdue DePape and call for backup. Laboured breathing can be heard in the footage, and Pelosi is visible limp on the ground, in a pool of fluid.

Warning: The video below shows police body-camera footage of violence. 

Friday’s release also includes a police interview with DePape and black-and-white security footage showing DePape using the hammer to break a window and gain entry into the Pelosi household.

Among the published materials was the 911 telephone call Paul Pelosi made to San Francisco’s emergency services around 2:23am (10:32 GMT) on the night of the attack.

When a dispatcher on the call asks if Pelosi needs help, he replies, “Well, there’s a gentleman here just waiting for my wife to come back, Nancy Pelosi. He’s just waiting for her to come back, but she’s not going to be here for days. So, I guess we’ll have to wait.” He then asks if Capitol Police are around.

The call includes a muddle of dialogue, as Pelosi speaks with both the dispatcher and DePape, who appears to be surveilling the call.

“He thinks everything’s good. I’ve got a problem. But he thinks everything’s good,” Pelosi says at one point. When Pelosi confirms to the dispatcher that he does not know who the intruder is, DePape interjects, identifying himself by his first name and falsely asserting that he’s a friend.

“He’s telling me I’m being very leading, so I’ve got to stop talking to you, OK?” Pelosi says at the end of the three-minute call.

“OK. Are you sure? I can stay on the phone with you just to make sure everything’s OK,” the dispatcher replies.

“No,” Pelosi answers, “he wants me to get the hell off the phone. OK?”

San Francisco Superior Court Judge Stephen M Murphy agreed on Wednesday to the release of the footage, despite concerns from prosecutors that the video could be manipulated or misused to spread false information.

False claims had swirled on the internet in the wake of the attack, which happened a little more than a week before the high-stakes 2022 midterm elections were scheduled to occur.

Figures like tech magnate Elon Musk had shared baseless claims that Paul Pelosi had somehow been involved in precipitating the attack, and conspiracy theories abounded that DePape had been framed, or that he and Pelosi had been involved in a sexual relationship.

When news outlets — including the New York Times, Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle and The Associated Press — attempted to obtain copies of the video, the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office declined to comply, citing the potential for misinformation.

But lawyers on behalf of the news agencies argued that accessing the footage would be crucial for transparency in the case.

“You don’t eliminate the public right of access just because of concerns about conspiracy theories,” Thomas R Burke, a San Francisco-based lawyer representing the news agencies, told the AP.

DePape faces both state and federal charges for the attack. In state court, he faces accusations of attempted murder, first-degree residential burglary, elder abuse, assault with a deadly weapon, false imprisonment and threatening a family member of a public official.

In federal court, he has been charged with one count of assaulting an immediate family member of a US official and one count of attempted kidnapping of a US official. DePape has entered pleas of not guilty in both state and federal court.

Prosecutors allege that DePape, a resident of Richmond, California, had espoused QAnon conspiracy theories and false claims about the results of the 2020 presidential election online. DePape reportedly told police investigators after the attack that he believed there was “evil in Washington“.

In the police audio interview released on Friday, DePape can be heard accusing Democrats of “spying” on and “persecuting” former Republican President Donald Trump during his four-year term in office.

“It’s just like an endless f***ing crime spree,” he tells police in the recording, repeating the lie that the 2020 election results were fraudulent. “They [the Democrats] go from one crime to another crime to another crime to another crime, and it’s just like the whole f***ing four years until they were finally able to steal the election. It’s unacceptable.”

DePape has been accused of breaking into the Pelosi residence on October 28 with a hammer, using a glass door to enter. Prosecutors said he had planned to hold Nancy Pelosi hostage, threatening to break “her kneecaps” if she did not confess what he considered “the truth”.

Instead, he found Paul Pelosi, who managed to call emergency services during the attack. Pelosi reportedly later woke up in a pool of his own blood, suffering severe head injuries after being struck with the hammer.

DePape is due in court on February 23, when a trial date is to be set.

Republicans retook control of the US House of Representatives during the 2022 midterms, and Nancy Pelosi has since stepped down as top Democrat in the chamber, succeeded by Hakeem Jeffries.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies