Attack suspect Paul Pelosi tried to take the speaker hostage, prosecutors say
SAN FRANCISCO, Oct 31 (Reuters) – A man accused of beating House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband with a hammer after forcing his way into the couple’s home threatened to take her hostage and break her kneecaps if she lied under his interrogation, according to a federal criminal complaint filed Monday.
David Wayne DePape’s alleged intentions emerged after federal prosecutors charged the 42-year-old suspect with assault and attempted kidnapping Friday in a break-in at the Pelosis home in San Francisco.
Multiple 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 servant, District Attorney Brooke Jenkins announced at a news conference.
The 82-year-old Speaker of the US House of Representatives, a Democrat who is second in line to the US presidency, was in Washington at the time of the attack. Her husband, Paul Pelosi, 82, a real estate and venture capital executive, was hospitalized while recovering from a fractured skull and injuries to his hands and right arm.
Doctors expect a full recovery, the speaker’s office announced.
The incident, which Jenkins called “politically motivated,” fueled fears of violence by partisan extremists ahead of the Nov. 8 midterm elections that will decide control of Congress during one of the fiercest and most polarized American campaigns in decades.
As one of the highest-ranking Democrats in Washington and a longtime representative of one of America’s most liberal cities, Nancy Pelosi is a frequent lightning rod for expressions of conservative criticism and disdain.
Her office was ransacked during the attack on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021 by a mob of supporters of Republican then-President Donald Trump, some of whom hunted her down during the melee.
WAKE UP BY A STRANGER
DePape was arrested by officers who were dispatched to the speaker’s home after her spouse made a 911 call to report an intruder, according to an FBI affidavit filed as part of a federal criminal complaint.
The San Francisco Police Department found a zip tie in the bedroom and in the hallway near the front door. Police also found a roll of tape, rope, a hammer, a pair of gloves and a journal in DePape’s backpack, according to the affidavit.
Paul Pelosi, who was initially knocked unconscious by the attack, later told police he was asleep when a stranger, armed with a hammer, crept into his bedroom and woke him up, demanding to speak to his wife, according to the complaint.
According to Paul Pelosi’s affidavit, he told the intruder that his wife would be gone for a few days, and the intruder replied that he would stay and wait for her. Pelosi’s husband said he was able to drag himself into the bathroom to call 911, according to the affidavit.
The suspect told police in an interview after 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 “lyed” he would break her kneecaps, the statement said. FBI statement.
He told police he didn’t run from the Pelosi home after Paul Pelosi’s 911 call because, according to the affidavit, “like America’s founding fathers with the British, he fought tyranny without surrender.”
Authorities said officers who arrived at the Pelosi home saw DePape and Pelosi fighting over a hammer. As officers yelled at both men to drop their tools, DePape wrenched the hammer away and struck Pelosi before officers overpowered DePape and took him into custody.
DePape is charged in federal court with one count of assaulting a family member of a US official and one count of attempted kidnapping of a US official. Prosecutors stated that the crimes stemmed from the suspect’s intent to take revenge on the speaker of the House of Representatives for her “performance of official duties.”
The federal charges carry a combined maximum sentence of 50 years in prison, the Justice Department said in a statement announcing the charges. The state charges are punishable by 13 years to life in prison, Jenkins said.
Online messages recently posted on several websites by a netizen named “daviddepape” expressed bigoted sentiments against minorities, Jews, women and transgender people while espousing the cult-like, right-wing QAnon conspiracy theory.
Older online posts promoted quartz crystals and hemp bracelets. Reuters could not confirm that the posts were created by the suspect who was charged on Monday.
Experts on extremist ideology said Friday’s attack was an example of a growing trend they call “stochastic terrorism,” in which sometimes unstable individuals are inspired to violence by hate speech and scenarios they see online and hear echoed by public figures. read more
Reporting by Paresh Dave in San Francisco and Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Additional reporting by Sarah N. Lynch in Washington, Brendan O’Brien in Chicago and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Editing by Howard Goller and Rosalba O’Brien
Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
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