A San Francisco police officer testified on Wednesday that he witnessed a man attack the husband of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with a hammer inside the couple’s home.
The suspect, David DePape, allegedly broke into the Pelosis’ San Francisco home on October 28, seeking to kidnap the speaker — who was not there — and instead beat her 82-year-old husband, Paul Pelosi, with a hammer. The violence sent shockwaves through the political world.
DePape, wearing an orange jumpsuit during a preliminary hearing in state court, has pleaded not guilty to federal and state charges, including attempted murder, burglary and elder abuse. He remains in custody without bail.
Prosecutors presented the hammer that was allegedly used in the assault during Wednesday’s proceedings, which were attended by Christine Pelosi, one of the Pelosis’ five adult children.
The district attorney’s office also played audio of Paul Pelosi’s 911 call to San Francisco police in the courtroom and showed video footage — less than a minute long — of the attack that was captured on body cameras. The 911 dispatcher has been widely credited with sending two officers to the couple’s home despite limited information.
In November, Nancy Pelosi said she will step down as the Democrats’ leader after 20 years as the party’s head.
Paul Pelosi, her husband of nearly 60 years, drew a standing ovation earlier this month when the couple attended the Kennedy Centre Honours — his first public appearance since the assault.
Christine Pelosi, a Democratic operative and attorney, is considered to be a potential successor when the speaker retires, though she has never held elected office.
DePape told police he was on a “suicide mission” and had plans to target other California and federal politicians, court documents say. Authorities have said he was drawn to conspiracy theories.
DePape allegedly smashed his way into the Pelosis’ home, confronted Paul Pelosi, who was sleeping in boxer shorts and a pyjama top, and demanded to know where “Nancy” was.
DePape allegedly then told Paul Pelosi that if Nancy Pelosi told him the “‘truth’, he would let her go and if she ‘lied,’ he was going to break her kneecaps”, the criminal complaint alleges.
Paul Pelosi was eventually able to call 911 to summon San Francisco police. Officers arrived two minutes later to see the two men struggling over a hammer, and then DePape struck Pelosi at least once before being tackled by officers.
Paul Pelosi was knocked unconscious by the hammer attack. He later underwent surgery to repair a skull fracture and serious injuries to his right arm and hands.
Speaker Pelosi was in Washington at the time and under the protection of her security detail, which does not extend to family members. Threats against politicians and elections officials have been at all-time highs since the January 6, 2021, insurrection at the Capitol, and authorities have issued warnings about rising extremism in the US.