The man who allegedly broke into Nancy Pelosi’s home in San Francisco and attacked her husband with a hammer had a list of other “targets,” as well as a bag containing duct tape and zip ties, multiple media outlets citing law enforcement sources reported.
Paul Pelosi, 82, was hospitalized after the attack and underwent surgery for a fractured skull as well as being treated for injuries to his hands and arms. His accused assailant has been identified as 42-year-old David DePape, a resident of Berkeley, California. VICE News reported Friday that DePape left a trail of online hate and appeared to ascribe to a grab bag of far-right conspiracy theories, including Pizzagate, Holocaust denial, and anti-LGBTQ “grooming” narratives. He also railed against the government, promoted COVID-19 disinformation, and went on long rants targeting women and minorities.
He’s set to appear in court on Tuesday.
More details about the attack trickled out over the weekend, even as rampant disinformation about DePape and the Pelosis swirled online. Investigators, however, have not yet confirmed a motive in the attack, and law enforcement recognizes they’re racing against the clock to maintain control of the official narrative.
“With the steady flow of disinformation, we would like to get as many facts out as we can,” Sgt. Adam Lobsinger, who runs communications for the San Francisco Police Department, told VICE News in an email. “This is an active investigation involving many different agencies, so we are still limited on what we can say.”
In a press conference Sunday, San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins tried to set the record straight on several false narratives percolating online regarding the attack, including one baselessly speculating DePape and Paul Pelosi were having an affair. New Twitter owner Elon Musk shared an article promoting that conspiracy and later deleted it.
DePape was “in fact, looking for Ms. Pelosi,” Jenkins said. The House Speaker was in Washington, D.C., with her security detail at the time. Jenkins said there’s no evidence to suggest the two men knew each other prior to Friday’s attack.
Jenkins, however, did not weigh in on media reports about DePape having a longer list of targets. With regards to the zip ties, a spokesperson for the San Francisco Police Department told VICE News they were unable to “confirm or comment on any evidence we may or may not have located at the scene,” citing the ongoing nature of the investigation.
Police have said that DePape allegedly broke into the Pelosis’ home by smashing a glass back door and made his way to the second floor, where Paul Pelosi was asleep. He was shouting “Where’s Nancy?!” CNN reported, eerily reminiscent of the words that were chanted by Jan. 6 rioters who searched the Capitol for the House Speaker.
Paul Pelosi told the intruder that he had to use the bathroom, where his phone was charging. There he discreetly placed a call to 911 and kept the line open. He spoke in “code” with his alleged attacker, asking questions like, “What’s going on?” “Why are you here?” and “What are you going to do to me?” according to CNN. An emergency services dispatcher recognized the unusual exchange and dispatched police for a wellness check at the Pelosi residence.
Jenkins also swatted down conspiracy theories claiming that there was a third person in the house, which were fueled by the fact that the front door of the Pelosi residence was unlocked when police arrived. “There was no third person present,” said Jenkins. “We don’t have information about which of the men opened the door.”
When police arrived, Pelosi and DePape were struggling over the hammer, each holding onto an end, according to Jenkins. Police ordered them to “drop the weapon” and then witnessed DePape allegedly strike Pelosi with the hammer.
DePape, who was at one point a hemp-jewelry maker with close ties to a nudist community, wrote on one of his blogs that he was radicalized into far-right extremism during the 2014 misogynistic online harassment campaign known as “Gamergate,” which was first observed by disinformation researcher Erin Gallagher. In one post from this summer, he described Gamergate as a “consumer-lead revolt against communism.”
DePape is currently being held in San Francisco County Jail. He’s set to be formally arraigned Tuesday on charges including attempted homicide and elder abuse. Because he appeared to target a member of Congress, federal prosecutors may pursue additional federal charges against him.
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