Newly released video of the attack on Paul Pelosi shows a struggle for a hammer
Updated January 27, 2023 at 2:31 PM ET
Video released publicly Friday shows the husband of former U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi fighting with his assailant for control of a hammer moments before he was struck during a brutal attack in the couple's San Francisco home last year.
The body-camera footage shows suspect David DePape wrest the tool from 82-year-old Paul Pelosi and lunge toward him with the hammer over his head. The blow to Pelosi occurs out of view of the camera and the officers — one of them cursing — rush into the house and jump on DePape.
Pelosi, apparently unconscious, can be seen lying face down on the floor in his pajama top and underwear. Officials later said he woke up in a pool of his own blood.
The release comes after a coalition of news agencies, including The Associated Press, sought access to the evidence that prosecutors played in open court last month. The San Francisco District Attorney's Office had refused to make the exhibits available to journalists.
A state court judge Wednesday ruled there was no reason to keep the video secret.
The evidence includes portions of Paul Pelosi's 911 call on Oct. 28, as well as video images from Capitol police surveillance cameras, a body camera worn by one of the two police officers who arrived at the house and a nearly 18-minute audio recording from DePape's interview with police.
The Capitol Police video shows DePape walk up to a glass-panel door, leave and then return wearing a large backpack and carrying two other bags. He set all the items down and pulled out a hammer, pausing to put on gloves, and used it to smash the door glass so he could step through an opening.
DePape has pleaded not guilty in ongoing state and federal cases. He is being held in jail without bail. He faces charges including attempted murder, elder abuse, and assaulting an immediate family member of a federal official.
The San Francisco public defender's office, which is representing DePape, 43, said they planned to issue a statement later Friday.
Members of Congress have faced a sharp rise in threats in the two years since the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
During the Jan. 6 attack, rioters chanted menacingly for the speaker as they rampaged through the halls trying to halt certification of Joe Biden's victory over Donald Trump in the presidential election. One man was convicted this week of eight criminal counts after he put his feet on a desk in Pelosi's office and left a note to her punctuated with a sexist expletive.
Paul Pelosi was asleep at the couple's home when DePape allegedly broke in. Nancy Pelosi was in Washington at the time and under the protection of her security detail, which does not extend to family members.
Her husband of nearly 60 years later underwent surgery to repair a skull fracture and serious injuries to his right arm and hands. He has since appeared in public wearing a hat and a glove that covered his wounds.
Nancy Pelosi on Thursday told reporters her husband's well-being was paramount and she did not know if she would view the video once it was released.
"I don't even know if I will see that," she said. "I mean, it would be a very hard thing to see an assault on my husband's life, but I don't know."
San Francisco Officer Kolby Wilmes' body-camera video begins with officers approaching the brick home and rapping on the door. It takes about 20 seconds for the door to open and during that time, the officers discuss whether they have the right house.
When the door opens, Paul Pelosi says, "Hi, guys, how are you?"
Both men are facing the officers at the door. Initially, the hammer is in the shadows and it takes about five seconds before a flashlight shows DePape holding the handle of a hammer with his right hand and clutching Pelosi's right hand, which is gripping around the hammer head, with his left hand. The struggle is not apparent in the first few seconds.
"What's going on, man?" the officer asks.
"Everything's good," DePape replies.
"Drop the hammer," the officer says.
DePape says no and begins to pull it from Pelosi's grip. Pelosi says, "Hey, hey."
DePape wins control of the hammer and winds up with his right and delivers a vicious overhand blow as Pelosi disappears out of view and officers rush in. The officers called for backup as they struggled with DePape and Pelosi was lying on the ground.
In an interview with San Francisco Police Lt. Carla Hurley after he was taken into custody, DePape said he didn't regret the attack even though it was not on Nancy Pelosi, his intended target. DePape told Hurley he was going after Nancy Pelosi for lying to the American public and that he planned to hold her hostage for her crimes. He believed the discredited conspiracy that Democrats stole the 2020 election from Trump.
"Day in, day out, the person who was on the TV lying every day was Pelosi," he said.
He said he planned to hold her hostage and would "break her kneecaps" if she lied.
He said he was surprised to find Paul Pelosi in the house. DePape said he planned to tie Paul Pelosi up so he could get some sleep, because carrying a heavy backpack to the home had tired him out.
When Hurley asked why DePape did not leave when he realized Nancy Pelosi wasn't home and the police were on the way, he compared himself to the Founding Fathers.
"They fought the British, they fought the tyranny. They didn't just (expletive) surrender to it. And when I left my house, I went to go fight tyranny, I did not leave to go surrender," he said.
The U.S. Capitol Police investigated nearly 10,000 threats to members last year, more than twice the number from four years earlier.
Public officials across the U.S., from local school board members to election workers, have also endured harassment and intimidation.
This month, a former Republican candidate for a state House seat in New Mexico was arrested in a series of shootings targeting the homes or offices of elected Democratic officials and a Kansas man was convicted of threatening a GOP congressman.
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