The man accused of breaking into House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's home and attacking her husband with a hammer went there looking for her and planned to kidnap her and break her kneecaps, according to a federal indictment released Monday.
David DePape, 42, had "zip ties, tape, rope, and at least one hammer" with him, according to the indictment, and was "prepared to detain and injure Speaker Pelosi" following the break-in at their San Francisco home early Friday morning.
"DePape stated that he was going to hold Nancy hostage and talk to her," the indictment says. "If Nancy were to tell DePape the 'truth,' he would let her go, and if she 'lied,' he was going to break 'her kneecaps.' DePape was certain that Nancy would not have told the 'truth.'"
In an interview with the FBI, DePape allegedly said he "viewed Nancy as the 'leader of the pack' of lies told by the Democratic Party," and "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."
DePape is now facing both state and federal charges for the attack. Federal prosecutors have charged him with one count of "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" as well as one count of "attempted kidnapping of a United States official on account of the performance of official duties." If convicted, he could be sentenced to up to 50 years in prison.
The San Francisco district attorney's office also charged DePape on Monday with attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, elderly abuse, false imprisonment of an elder, threats to a public official and their family, and residential burglary. He faces 13 years to life in prison if convicted of the state charges, interim District Attorney Brooke Jenkins said during a news conference.
According to the federal indictment, DePape entered Paul Pelosi's bedroom while the speaker's husband was asleep and "stated he wanted to talk to 'Nancy.'" When told she was not there and wouldn't be home for several days, DePape said "he would sit and wait." (The speaker was in Washington, DC, at the time.)
The speaker's husband was able to call 911 from the bathroom, telling the dispatcher at 2:23 a.m. that there was a man in the house who said he was going to wait for the speaker to return. Police arrived at the home less than 10 minutes later, and found the speaker's husband and the suspect "both holding a hammer with one hand," with DePape "holding onto Pelosi’s forearm" with his other hand.
When officers asked DePape to drop the hammer, he allegedly "pulled the hammer from Pelosi’s hand and swung the hammer, striking Pelosi in the head." Officers then restrained DePape, while Pelosi "appeared to be unconscious on the ground."
According to a motion to detain without bail filed by San Francisco prosecutors on Tuesday, Pelosi "remained unresponsive for about three minutes" and woke up in "a pool of his own blood."
DePape knew that Pelosi had called the police, according to the indictment, but allegedly told investigators he didn't leave "because, much like the American founding fathers with the British, he was fighting against tyranny without the option of surrender."
Pelosi, 82, suffered trauma to the head and body from being "severely beaten" during the hammer assault, according to two people with knowledge of the investigation, the AP reported.
The speaker's husband "is receiving excellent medical care and is expected to make a full recovery," Drew Hammill, a spokesperson for her office, said in a statement. He was admitted to Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital on Friday morning where he successfully underwent surgery to repair a skull fracture and "serious injuries" to his right arm and hands, according to the speaker's spokesperson.
"The Speaker and her family are thankful for the outpouring of support and prayers from friends, constituents and people around the country," Hammill said. "The Pelosi family is immensely grateful to Mr. Pelosi’s entire medical team and the law enforcement officers who responded to the assault."
Speaking to reporters Monday afternoon, Jenkins said it was clear from DePape's statements while inside the Pelosi residence that the attack was politically motivated.
"We know that there have been tragedies in this very city of political leaders in the past, and so it’s something that we have to take very seriously," Jenkins said, presumably referring to the 1978 assassinations of Mayor George Moscone and San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk. "It's very sad to see that we are once again at a point in history where people believe that it’s OK to express their political sentiments through violence."
In the motion to detain, Jenkins's office said DePape told officers and medics on the scene that he was "sick of the insane fucking level of lies coming out of Washington, D.C." and that while he didn't want to hurt the speaker's husband he was on "a suicide mission."
"Hurting him was not my goal," DePape said, according to the document. "I told him before I attacked him, that he's escalating things, and I will go through him if I have to."
CNN reported that DePape had shared social media posts espousing debunked conspiracy theories, including that COVID vaccines are deadly, the 2020 election was stolen, and that police did not murder George Floyd. Two blogs — apparently written by a person named David DePape — were filled with racist, antisemitic, and other bigoted statements, and pushed conspiracy theories about how "the elites/ruling class" censor information.
A spokesperson for the San Francisco Police Department would not confirm to BuzzFeed News whether police believe the suspect wrote the content, but his daughter told the Los Angeles Times that at least one of the blogs was his. DePape is estranged from his family, family members told CNN.
Baseless conspiracy theories have circulated since the attack, including one Elon Musk promoted on Twitter just days after buying the platform. On Sunday, Musk tweeted a link to a post from a fake news website called the Santa Monica Observer that claimed DePape is a male sex worker who was in a dispute with Paul Pelosi, who was drunk.
The claim has no basis, and the post made no effort to verify it. The Santa Monica Observer — which falsely portrays itself as a news outlet — has published outrageous fake news stories in the past, according to the Los Angeles Times, including ones that claimed Hillary Clinton died and a body double was used to debate Donald Trump in 2016, that Trump appointed Kanye West to the Department of the Interior, and that sunlight could cure COVID-19 patients.
Musk later deleted the tweet. In her Sunday news conference, Jenkins said she was aware of such conspiracy theories and firmly pushed back against them. There is "nothing to suggest that these two men knew each other prior to this incident," she said.
"I think there needs to be a respect for what that family has endured, what Mr. Pelosi has endured and is recovering from," Jenkins said.
According to officials, DePape gained entry into the speaker's home by breaking through a rear glass door. Jenkins said there was no security present at the time of the break-in.
DePape appeared in court on Tuesday with his right arm in a sling as he entered a plea of not guilty. His court-appointed attorney, deputy public defender Adam Lipson, told reporters after the hearing that DePape dislocated his shoulder during his arrest.
Jenkins said on Monday that her office planned to file the motion to detain him without bail due to "obvious and severe public safety risks." According to the motion, DePape told Paul Pelosi he couldn't "be stopped" and had other targets.
"Violence has no place in this city," she said, "and we will work vigorously to hold the defendant accountable."
This story has been updated to include additional details from a motion to detain filed by San Francisco prosecutors and DePape's court appearance on Nov. 1, 2022.