Suspect threatened to hold Nancy Pelosi hostage and "break her kneecaps" if she lied to him

David DePape reportedly said Nancy Pelosi was the “leader of the pack” of lies told by the Democratic Party.

By Areeba Shah

Staff Writer

Published October 31, 2022 4:55PM (EDT)

U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi departs following her weekly news conference at the U.S. Capitol on September 14, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)
U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi departs following her weekly news conference at the U.S. Capitol on September 14, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

The suspect who allegedly assaulted Paul Pelosi, the husband of the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, told police he wanted to hold the congresswoman hostage and "break her kneecaps" if she lied to him, according to a recent Justice Department filing

The DOJ filed two charges in federal court against David DePape, who attacked Paul Pelosi with a hammer in the couple's San Francisco home.

Prosecutors charged DePape with attempted kidnapping and assault with intent to retaliate against a federal official by threatening or injuring a family member.

San Francisco police said DePape would also be arraigned on charges of attempted homicide, first-degree burglary, violent felony enhancement, assault with a deadly weapon, aggravated battery with serious bodily injury, elder abuse, inflicting significant bodily injury on elderly, and threatening a public official or family member, among others. 

Before violently assaulting Paul Pelosi, the assailant reportedly entered the couple's home in the Pacific Heights neighborhood shouting "Where is Nancy? Where is Nancy?" He planned to wait for the House speaker to return home while keeping her husband tied up. (In fact, Pelosi was thousands of miles away in Washington at the time.) 

The new filing revealed that DePape said he would hold the Speaker hostage and only let her go if he told her the "truth". If she "lied" he would break "her kneecaps." The DOJ document continues:

In the course of the interview, DEPAPE articulated he viewed Nancy as the "leader of the pack" of lies told by the Democratic Party. DEPAPE also later explained 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 also explained generally that he wanted to use Nancy to lure another individual to DEPAPE.

DePape apparently broke into the Pelosis' house by smashing a glass door by using a hammer. According to the filing, he told Paul Pelosi that "he wanted to tie Pelosi up so that [DePape] could go to sleep as he was tired from having had to carry a backpack to the Pelosi residence."

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The assailant said he took out twist ties to restrain Pelosi and took him to his bedroom to stop Pelosi from moving toward another part of the house. During that time, Pelosi managed to dial 911, but DePape decided not to flee:

DEPAPE explained that he did not leave after Pelosi's call to 9-1-1 because, much like the American founding fathers with the British, he was fighting against tyranny without the option of surrender. DEPAPE reiterated this sentiment elsewhere in the interview.

When police arrived, they went downstairs to the front door, DePape recalled. When Pelosi ran to open the door, he also grabbed onto DePape's hammer, which remained in his hand, the filing said. 

"At this point in the interview, DEPAPE repeated that DEPAPE did not plan to surrender and that he would go 'through' Pelosi." DePape said that he pulled the hammer away from Pelosi and swung the hammer toward him. "Pelosi's actions resulted in Pelosi 'taking the punishment instead,'" the filing included, quoting DePape. 

Pelosi remains in intensive care at  Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital after suffering a fractured skull and injuries to his right arm and hand, NBC News reported. Nancy Pelosi has said her husband is expected to make a full recovery.

With only eight days left before the midterm elections, the incident has raised fears about political violence and threats made against lawmakers. While the incident has been widely condemned, some people — including, at least briefly, Elon Musk, the new owner of Twitter — have continued to spread and amplify conspiracy theories regarding the attack.

By Areeba Shah

Areeba Shah is a staff writer at Salon covering news and politics. Previously, she was a research associate at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and a reporting fellow for the Pulitzer Center, where she covered how COVID-19 impacted migrant farmworkers in the Midwest.

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Brief David Depape Nancy Pelosi Paul Pelosi Political Violence