WASHINGTON (AP) — 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.
Those shouts were a chilling echo of the chants during the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the Capitol, when rioters trying to stop Joe Biden’s election searched menacingly through the halls for the speaker.
Paul Pelosi was attacked and severely beaten by an assailant who broke into the Pelosi home early Friday, police said. The intruder confronted him shouting for the speaker’s whereabouts, according to another person briefed on the situation.
“The motive for this attack is still being determined,” said San Francisco Police Chief William Scott at a press briefing.
The suspect was identified as David Depape, Scott said. He was in custody.
“Our officers observed Mr. Pelosi and the suspect both holding a hammer,” Scott said. “The suspect pulled the hammer away from Mr. Pelosi and violently assaulted him with it. Our officers immediately tackled the suspect, disarmed him, took him into custody, requested emergency backup and rendered medical aid.”
Scott said Depape was being charged with attempted homicide, assault with a deadly weapon, elder abuse aand other charges.
The 42-year-old man broke into House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco home early Thursday, attacking the speaker’s husband with a hammer just as police officials responded to the home.
Police responded to the 2:27 a.m. call. Both men were holding the hammer, he said.
The 82 year-old suffered blunt force injuries to his head and body, according to two people who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing probe. He was admitted to Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital for his injuries, the hospital confirmed. His condition was not immediately available.
Paul Pelosi was being treated by doctors for bruising, severe swelling and other injuries.
While the circumstances of the attack were unclear, 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. The attack also came just 11 days ahead of midterm elections in which crime and public safety have emerged as top concerns among Americans.
In 2021, Capitol Police investigated around 9,600 threats made against members of Congress, and members have been physically attacked in recent years. Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., was shot in the head at an event outside a Tucson grocery store in 2011, and Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., 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.
Capitol Police, tasked with protecting congressional leaders, said Nancy Pelosi was with her protective detail in Washington at the time her husband was attacked.
Speaker Pelosi, who is second in the line of succession to the president, had just returned this week from a security conference in Europe and is due to keynote an advocacy event Saturday evening in Washington with Vice President Kamala Harris.
Capitol Police said the FBI and San Francisco police were also investigating. The suspect was in the custody of the San Francisco police.
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 misdemeanor 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, D-N.Y. “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 Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo.
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 Sen. 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 neighborhood 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.
Congressional correspondent Lisa Mascaro and AP writer Mary Clare Jalonick in Washington, AP writers Juliet Williams and Olga R. Rodriguez in San Francisco, Stefanie Dazio in Los Angeles and News Researcher Jennifer Farrar in New York contributed to this report.