An intruder who broke into the US House speaker’s home in San Francisco early Friday had a target in mind, authorities said, before attacking her husband, breaking his skull with a hammer.
Paul Pelosi, 82, is recovering from surgery at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital “to repair a skull fracture and serious injuries to his right arm and hands,” said Drew Hammill, a spokesperson for Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office. He is expected to make a full recovery.
While the attacker’s motive remains undetermined, the violence — 11 days before the midterm elections — has raised alarm, in part because of heightened concerns about the safety of officials in their homes and offices. Those concerns grew in the wake of the January 6, 2021 attack on the United States Capitol, where Nancy Pelosi was one of the targets.
A source informed about Friday’s attack said the attacker shouted, “Where’s Nancy? Where’s Nancy?” before confronting Paul Pelosi.
“Based on our investigation at this time… this was not an arbitrary act,” San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott said at a news conference Friday night. “This was intentional.”
Scott identified the suspect as David DePape, 42, and said officers responded at Pelosi’s home around 2:27 a.m.
At the start of the break-in, Paul Pelosi told the intruder to go to the bathroom, then made a covert 911 call on his cell phone and left the line open, sources familiar with the attack told The Times. Dispatcher Heather Grimes overheard Pelosi talking to his attacker and alerted officers at the scene.
“It’s really down to Mr. Pelosi who has the ability to make that call and really that dispatcher’s attention and instinct to realize something was wrong and to make the police a priority,” San Francisco Dist . atty. Brooke Jenkins told CNN, adding that officers were on the scene within two minutes.
Scott praised Grimes’ quick thinking.
“She had to interpret what she was told,” he said at the press conference. “And based on her experience and intuition, she actually found out that there was more to this incident than what she was told. Her actions, in my opinion, have resulted in both a higher priority dispatch and a faster response from the police.”
When the police arrived and knocked on the front door, Scott said, someone inside opened the door. The officers saw Paul Pelosi and DePape, “each with one hand on a single hammer,” he said.
After officers ordered both men to drop the hammer, DePape “immediately” pulled the tool from Pelosi and “violently attacked him with the hammer,” Scott said.
Police grabbed DePape, grabbed the hammer and took him into custody before calling for backup and starting emergency room.
At one point after police arrived, DePape said he was “waiting for Nancy,” a law enforcement source told The Times.
After DePape was taken to a hospital, he was booked Friday afternoon on charges of attempted murder, first-degree burglary, assault with a deadly weapon, threatening a family member of a government official, elder abuse, battery with serious bodily harm, discouraging a witnessing and injuring a wireless device.
Scott confirmed that DePape had “forced” a back door to the Pelosi house.
Jenkins, the San Francisco district attorney, said her office is “working closely” with authorities “and will move forward with appropriate charges as cases unfold.”
Nancy Pelosi was in Washington, DC, with her protective detail at the time of the break-in, according to the US Capitol Police.
“The speaker and her family are grateful to first responders and medical professionals and request privacy at this time,” her office said in a statement.
President Biden spoke with Congresswoman Friday morning “to show his support after this horrific attack,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement.
Vice President Kamala Harris said in Philadelphia with Biden, “I pray for Paul’s recovery. I know the Pelosis, and this is tragic. Someone literally broke into their house and said, ‘Where’s Nancy?’”
Biden linked the attack to a worrying rise in political violence.
“Enough is enough is enough,” the president said in Philadelphia. “Everyone in good conscience must stand up clearly and unequivocally against the violence in our politics.”
The US Capitol Police said in a statement it has dispatched special agents and threat investigators to the scene and is assisting the FBI and the San Francisco Police Department.
The Pelosis live in Pacific Heights, one of San Francisco’s most exclusive neighborhoods. On Friday, the police blocked the street in front of the house.
John Braun, who has lived in San Francisco for 50 years, lamented the attack as he walked his dog nearby as helicopters buzzed overhead.
“No one should be attacked in their homes,” he said. “No one should be attacked anywhere.”
Deborah Karel, who has lived in the area for three decades, said she was “shocked” by the attack.
“That someone would go after our political leaders… said.
‘I’m 72 and I’ve never been more worried. It never occurred to me that democracy could fail. But now it is. And this seems related.”
Aerial footage of the Pelosi house showed a back door with shattered glass.
Images of the four-bedroom brick house built in 1938 are regularly featured on conservative websites. The house has been the site of protests; last year someone used black spray paint to write “A” for “anarchy” on the garage door, and a severed pig’s head was left in front of the house.
The attack comes at a tense time in the US, which is grappling with bitter partisanship ahead of the midterm elections and a widespread belief in political conspiracy theories — including about the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election — that have led to violence and threats against politicians, election workers and other public figures.
Democratic politicians on Friday were quick to blame the attack on hyper-partisanship and divisive political rhetoric.
“This horrific attack is yet another example of the dangerous consequences of the divisive and hateful rhetoric that endangers lives and undermines our democracy and democratic institutions,” California Governor Gavin Newsom said in a statement. “Those who use their platforms to incite violence must be held accountable.”
“Our leaders must never fear for their safety and the safety of their families while serving the people they chose to represent — not at their homes, not at the Capitol, anywhere.”
State Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) said in a statement that the attack was “terrifying, and the direct result of poisonous right-wing rhetoric and incitement against Chairman Pelosi and so many other progressive leaders.”
“Words have consequences,” he added, “and no doubt the hatred and extremism of the GOP has led to political violence.”
Senate Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) tweeted that he was “shocked and disgusted” by the attack and thanked the Capitol Police for their investigation.
Meanwhile, conservatives tried to portray the attack as an example of rising crime – a key issue in the midterm elections.
Nathan Hochman, a Republican attorney and former federal prosecutor seeking to remove California’s Democratic Attorney General Rob Bonta, appeared outside Pelosi’s home Friday morning.
Standing next to police tape blocking the street, he told a Times reporter that the incident was an example of rampant crime in California.
“If Paul Pelosi can’t be safe in his home in San Francisco, how can anyone be safe?” said Hochman. “This is a continuum of a spiral of lawlessness. Enough is enough.”
Political violence is on the rise in California and across the country.
In June, a Simi Valley man was charged with the attempted murder of a U.S. Supreme Court judge after being found with a gun, knife and pepper spray near Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh’s Maryland home.
Last month, Rep.’s mayoral campaign announced. Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) reported that the Congresswoman’s home had been broken into and burgled. She said two firearms had been stolen that were “stored safely and securely.”
In Northern California, a San Ramon man has been convicted of multiple gun possession charges, including having a concealed firearm in his charge, after threatening Wiener’s life last month.
Erik Triana, 51, was arrested after he threatened Wiener via the senator’s “contact me” website portal that read: “Vax my children without my permission and expect a visit from me and my gun.”
In May, a Napa man, Ian Rogers, 46, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to destroy a building by fire or explosives and possession of a machine gun after plotting to bomb Democratic headquarters in Sacramento.
Threats against members of Congress have increased dramatically over the past five years, according to Capitol Police data — from 3,939 cases in 2017 to 9,625 cases in 2021.
During the first three months of 2022, the last period for which data is available, the Capitol Police opened about 1,820 cases, the agency said.
Capitol Police said in an email to The Times that for security reasons, the department “does not discuss possible security measures for members.”
The attack on Pelosi came a day after the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI released a report saying that investigations into domestic violent extremism nearly doubled from 2020 to 2021.
The agencies said the FBI conducted about 1,400 domestic terrorism investigations in 2020. By the end of 2021, it was exporting about 2,700. A “significant portion” of the investigations last year was “directly related to the illegal activities during the January 2021 siege of the United States Capitol,” the report said.
Majority leader Charles E. Schumer of New York said in a statement that “what happened to Paul Pelosi was a dastardly act.” He said he spoke to Nancy Pelosi on Friday to express his “deepest concern and sincere wishes” to the family.
On Twitter, Meghan McCain, daughter of the late Senator John McCain, said friday that she felt “absolutely ill, horrified and disgusted” at the news of the attack.
“What the hell is happening in this country?! Everyone join me in sending support, love, prayers, whatever you can to Speaker Pelosi, her husband and the entire Pelosi family,” she wrote. “This is a broken world.”
Wiley reported from San Francisco, Petri from New York, and Winton and Yee from Los Angeles. Times staff writers Hailey Branson-Potts and Nolan D. McCaskill contributed to this report.