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Paul Pelosi attack video shows break-in, assault with hammer

Police body-camera footage released on Jan. 27 shows the moment David DePape severely injured Paul Pelosi during an October 2022 attack inside Pelosi’s home. (Video: The Washington Post)
7 min

LOS ANGELES — The police body-camera footage is brief, chaotic and dramatic: The door to former House speaker Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco home opens onto two men struggling for control of a hammer. The intruder wrests the weapon away from the Democratic lawmaker’s husband, Paul Pelosi, and attacks, striking him in the head before officers tackle him to the ground.

The video clip, which runs just over 1 ½ minutes, was part of a batch of evidence released Friday in the case against the suspect, David DePape, giving an up-close view of what happened during the stunning attack at the house of one of the nation’s highest-ranking politicians.

The tranche also includes audio from Paul Pelosi’s call to 911, part of a police interview with DePape and security camera video of the break-in. It was made public after The Washington Post and other news organizations pressed for copies and San Francisco Superior Court Judge Stephen M. Murphy ruled in favor of releasing them.

The tapes from the Oct. 28 assault illuminate a harrowing sequence: Pelosi alerting a 911 dispatcher of an armed man who was feet away, listening to the call and interjecting comments; DePape beating Pelosi in plain view of the officers; and DePape, after his arrest, describing his plans to kidnap and snap the bones of the then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Clips of the predawn break-in and assault at the Pelosi home were shown in court last month but, until now, had been otherwise shielded from view.

Wild rumors, amplified by conservative activists and bloggers, had surged after the 2 a.m. attack 11 days before the 2022 midterm elections, and the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office argued that unsealing video and audio could fuel more misinformation while risking DePape’s right to a fair trial. Someone, for instance, could edit the clips to manipulate audiences on social media.

But Murphy ruled that footage playing in a public courtroom should be handed to the media.

“These are open facts. They are known facts,” said Thomas Burke, a lawyer representing the coalition of news organizations that pushed for access to the evidence, including The Post. “The public’s right of access should not be dependent on conspiracy theories.”

The internet gossip had spread rapidly to Capitol Hill, where Republican officials groundlessly cast doubt on 82-year-old Paul Pelosi’s account of the violence and referenced baseless homophobic conspiracy theories.

Prosecutors, however, have said that what happened was clear — and that DePape himself outlined his actions in tapes like those just released.

“The most stark evidence of planning and motive in this case were the statements of the defendant himself,” San Francisco Assistant District Attorney Phoebe Maffei said at the December hearing.

In the now-public interview with police, DePape told an investigator: “I’m not trying to get away with this. I know exactly what I did.”

The audio and videos, part of a larger cache of evidence authorities have gathered against DePape, further debunk the claims made by far-right actors, mainstream politicians and Twitter owner Elon Musk, who used his platform to spread misinformation before backpedaling hours later.

Some claimed that DePape, whose descent into extremism is laid out in a long online trail, was not animated by radical right-wing politics; others said, without evidence, that DePape hadn’t actually broken into the house.

But in his interview with police, DePape says he was trying to punish Nancy Pelosi for what he called the Democratic Party’s “lies” and “crimes.” Also included in the released evidence was a six-minute video capturing the moment DePape broke in through a back door.

The black-and-white security-camera video shows DePape banging a hammer against the door until he is able to enter.

Video released on Jan. 27 shows David DePape breaking into then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s home prior to attacking her husband Paul in October 2022. (Video: The Washington Post)

Musk, along with Republicans like former president Donald Trump, Donald Trump Jr. and Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.), who each trafficked in the conspiracy theories after the attack, did not address the recordings that undercut many of their earlier claims.

Speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill on Friday afternoon, Nancy Pelosi said she has not reviewed any of the newly released evidence and will not do so.

“I have not heard the 911 call. I have not heard the confession,” she said. “I have not seen the break-in, and I have absolutely no intention of seeing the deadly assault on my husband’s life.”

DePape’s public defender, Adam Lipson, said the decision to release the tapes was “a terrible mistake.”

“Releasing this footage is disrespectful to Mr. Pelosi, and serves no purpose except to feed the public desire for spectacle and violence,” Lipson said in a statement. “The footage is inflammatory and could feed unfounded theories about this case, and we are extremely concerned about Mr. DePape’s ability to get a fair trial.”

DePape was 42 at the time of his arrest, and he told police that he showed up at the Pelosis’ home in San Francisco’s upscale Pacific Heights neighborhood because Nancy Pelosi was “the ‘leader of the pack’ of lies told by the Democratic Party.”

He said he planned to hold her hostage and break her kneecaps if she lied to him in order to “show other members of Congress there were consequences to actions.”

But Pelosi was in Washington that day. It was her husband who woke to the intruder carrying a hammer, zip ties, rope and a roll of tape. Paul Pelosi talked to DePape before managing to go to the bathroom and call 911, authorities said. DePape was nearby, watching him dial.

Pelosi spoke deliberately, keeping his voice calm and steady.

“Okay, well, I got a problem, but he thinks everything is good,” Pelosi tells the dispatcher, according to the recording.

“He’s telling me to put the phone down and just do what he says,” Pelosi continues.

When the dispatcher asks for the intruder’s name, DePape replies, “My name’s David,” and then tells her he is “a friend” of the Pelosis. Pelosi adds quickly that he doesn’t know him and ends the call about 20 seconds later.

Paul Pelosi, husband of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), called 911 when an unknown man entered his home on Oct. 28, 2022. (Video: The Washington Post)

Eventually, both men went downstairs. When police arrived, the door opened and the footage from one of the officer’s shaky body-cameras shows Pelosi and DePape standing in the entrance, each with a hand on the hammer.

“Drop the hammer,” one officer says.

“Um, nope,” DePape responds before striking Pelosi.

Pelosi fell to the ground, the video shows. Blood seeped onto the floor around his head as officers wrestled with DePape.

Pelosi was hospitalized for nearly a week with a fractured skull and injuries to his right arm and hands, but he is expected to make a full recovery. DePape has pleaded not guilty to state and federal charges that include attempted murder and attempting to kidnap a federal official. If convicted of the state charges, DePape will face 13 years to life in prison.

The targeting of the then-House speaker reinvigorated concerns about the nation’s deeply polarized political culture. The longtime congresswoman has for years been demonized by Republicans, and rioters yelled that they were searching for her while rushing into the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Groundless conspiracy theories appeared to have motivated DePape, who had published online rants full of racist and antisemitic commentary. He had compiled a list of other targets, he told investigators, including California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) and President Biden’s son, Hunter Biden.

“It’s an endless f---ing crime spree,” DePape said in the interview with San Francisco police shortly after getting arrested.

Marianna Sotomayor contributed to this report.