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Assailant shouted ‘Where is Nancy?’ in break-in at speaker’s home, attack on Paul Pelosi

Paul Pelosi was taken to a hospital and underwent surgery to repair a skull fracture and ‘serious injuries to his right arm and hands’

David DePape, 42, is facing state and federal criminal charges after attacking Paul Pelosi, husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), on Oct. 28. (Video: The Washington Post)
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The husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was violently assaulted with a hammer during an early-morning break-in Friday at the couple’s San Francisco home, a chilling escalation in a string of violence and threats directed at political leaders across the country.

The suspect, identified by police as 42-year-old David DePape, was searching for the speaker and shouted “Where is Nancy?,” according to a person briefed on the case. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the details.

Paul Pelosi, 82, was taken to a hospital and underwent surgery to repair a skull fracture and “serious injuries to his right arm and hands,” according to the speaker’s office, and he is expected to make a full recovery.

The attack at the Pelosi home comes after a dramatic increase in threats against lawmakers and government officials in recent years. This week alone, three men were convicted of aiding in a plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. In a separate case, a man was convicted Friday of threatening to kill Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.). Earlier this year, a man with a gun was arrested near Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh’s home after making threats against the justice.

The Pelosi assailant’s exclamation of “Where is Nancy?” was a striking echo of the Jan. 6 attack when a pro-Trump mob could be heard chanting, “Nancy, Nancy” and “All we want is Pelosi” as they ransacked the building, overwhelmed police and sought to stop the counting of electoral college votes in Joe Biden’s win.

A law enforcement official familiar with the investigation said it is still too early to determine a motive for the attack, but the official said investigators are examining all indicators of a potential motive, including the suspect’s social media accounts. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk frankly about the probe.

Blog hosted antisemitic writings

The Washington Post confirmed that a voluminous blog written under DePape’s name and filled with deeply antisemitic writings — as well as pro-Trump and anti-Democratic posts — was registered to a house in Richmond, Calif. where DePape lives, according to neighbors.

In a single day earlier this month, the blog had seven new posts. The titles included: “Balcks Nda jEwS,” “Were the Germans so Stupid?” “Who FINANCED Hitler’s rise to Power” “Gas chamber doors” and “I guess this is as good a time as any.” The latter implored Trump to pick former representative Tulsi Gabbard as his running mate for 2024.

On Oct. 19, the blog included writings about Kanye West: “Ya I remember the backlash and insults when you came out in support of Trump.”

In five additional posts that day, the blog published antisemitic videos, demeaning caricatures of Jews and expressed disbelief in the Holocaust. Two days ago, it was back at politics. A video was posted about the Steele dossier, and comments were made when the video was removed by YouTube.

The site was registered to an address in Richmond, Calif., about 16 miles from Pelosi’s home. Neighbors there said they knew DePape, and a recent post contained contact information for someone close to DePape. Reached using a phone number published on the blog, the person declined to comment.

San Francisco Police Chief William Scott said at a news conference that police responded at 2:27 a.m. Friday to a break-in at the Pelosi home. They found the assailant, who grabbed a hammer from Pelosi and attacked him in front of police. Police arrested DePape and he will be charged with attempted homicide, assault with a deadly weapon, elder abuse and burglary, according to Scott. DePape also was taken to a hospital.

San Francisco police chief William Scott said everyone “should be disgusted” by the violent attack on Paul Pelosi during his evening press briefing on Oct. 28. (Video: The Washington Post)

Scott said the 911 dispatcher who responded to Pelosi’s call sensed the situation was serious and gave it higher priority. This was a well-being check and she just knew there was more to it. So she alerted — she went that extra step — and because of it, she dispatched it at a higher priority than this type of call normally is and that led to a quicker response,” he said at a briefing Friday evening.

Nancy Pelosi, who has been fundraising and campaigning with Democrats around the country ahead of the midterm elections, was in Washington at the time, according to U.S. Capitol Police.

The speaker, who is second in line to the presidency, has a security detail provided by Capitol Police. Paul Pelosi, however, doesn’t receive protection from Capitol Police or any other government entity when he is not with the speaker, according to three people familiar with the security protocol.

“The Speaker and her family are grateful to the first responders and medical professionals involved, and request privacy at this time,” Drew Hammill, a spokesman, said.

Capitol Police in a statement said it was assisting the FBI and San Francisco police in investigating the break-in and attack. “Special Agents with the USCP’s California Field Office quickly arrived on scene, while a team of investigators from the Department’s Threat Assessment Section was simultaneously dispatched from the East Coast to assist the FBI and the San Francisco Police with a joint investigation,” the statement said.

The speaker, who had been in Zagreb, Croatia, earlier this week for a forum on Crimea and in Washington on Tuesday to meet with Israeli President Isaac Herzog, was in San Francisco on Wednesday morning for an event at the Golden Gate Bridge before returning to Washington.

On Friday afternoon, police had roped off the entire block around the Pelosis’ red-brick home with caution tape as TV reporters stood outside, filing their reports from the corner. The Pelosis live in Pacific Heights, a quiet, hilly neighborhood full of multimillion-dollar homes boasting majestic views of downtown and the San Francisco Bay. Many homes have security cameras and tall fences fortifying them. Several neighbors declined to comment on the day’s happenings.

Congress approved a $2.1 billion emergency security supplemental in July 2021 that largely went to beefing up security on Capitol Hill, making security improvements, and helping maintain police officers. In May 2021, Capitol Police reported that threats against lawmakers had increased by 107 percent since Jan. 6 compared to the prior year.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), who was recently threatened at her home, said Speaker Pelosi has been “very sympathetic to the need to get additional security for members.”

When a man with a pistol shows up outside a congresswoman’s house

“She really recognizes the changed threat to members in this environment and particularly after Jan. 6,” Jayapal said, referring to the 2021 attack on the Capitol.

Jayapal added that the need for security for family members “has been an ongoing concern” because they don’t receive protection from Capitol Police, and that it has been a challenge because such arrangements must be approved in the appropriations process by both parties.

Words of support, but also rhetoric

President Biden spoke to Nancy Pelosi to “express his support after this horrible attack,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement.

“The President is praying for Paul Pelosi and for Speaker Pelosi’s whole family,” Jean-Pierre said. “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 Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement that he conveyed his concerns in a call with the speaker, describing the attack as a “dastardly act.”

Other congressional leaders also expressed their shock and outrage while wishing Paul Pelosi a speedy recovery. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) tweeted, “Horrified and disgusted by the reports that Paul Pelosi was assaulted in his and Speaker Pelosi’s home last night.”

Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), the No. 2 Republican in the House, echoed those comments in his own tweet, writing: “Disgusted to hear about the horrific assault on Speaker Pelosi’s husband Paul. Grateful for law enforcement’s actions to respond,” Scalise said. “Let’s be clear: Violence has no place in this country. I’m praying for Paul Pelosi’s full recovery.”

Scalise was gravely wounded in 2017 when a gunman opened fire as Republicans were practicing for the Congressional Baseball Game.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) says he contacted the speaker, per a statement from his spokesman, Mark Bednar. “Leader McCarthy reached out to the Speaker to check in on Paul and said he’s praying for a full recovery and is thankful they caught the assailant,” the statement said.

But not every politician focused solely on the violent attack and Paul Pelosi’s health.

Campaigning with Virginia GOP House candidate Yesli Vega, Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) condemned the violence but then suggested that Republican voters would send the House speaker back home to be with her husband.

“Listen, I want to stop for a minute and — listen — Speaker Pelosi’s husband had a break-in last night in their house and he was assaulted. There’s no room for violence anywhere, but we’re going to send her back to be with him in California. That’s what we’re going to go do,” Youngkin said.

The crowd cheered.

Speaking at a rally for Virginia Republican congressional candidate Yesli Vega on Oct. 28, Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R-Va.) commented on an attack on Paul Pelosi. (Video: Glenn Youngkin/Facebook)

Later, in a statement to The Post, a spokeswoman for Youngkin, who has been floated as a potential 2024 Republican presidential candidate and has campaigned across the country for Republican candidates in the midterms, said the governor wishes Paul Pelosi “a full recovery and is keeping the Pelosi family in his prayers.”

Decades-long marriage

Paul Pelosi owns Financial Leasing Services, a San Francisco-based real estate and venture capital investment and consulting firm. He met his wife while studying at Georgetown University. She was a student at Trinity College at the time. The Pelosis have been married for 59 years and have five children.

He was in the news in August when he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of driving under the influence and causing injury stemming from a May car crash in Northern California.

In 2021, the Pelosi home in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights neighborhood was spray-painted and a pig’s head was left on the sidewalk in the early morning hours of New Year’s Day. The incident was apparently in criticism of Congress over insufficient coronavirus pandemic relief.

Bonos reported from San Francisco and Richmond. Dalton Bennett, Cate Brown, Leigh Ann Caldwell, Alice Crites, Razzan Nakhlawi and Marianna Sotomayor contributed to this report.