Pelosi attack video shows struggle and savage hammer swing
Stefanie Dazio And Brian Melley, The Associated Press
Published Friday, January 27, 2023 2:57PM EST
Last Updated Friday, January 27, 2023 9:00PM EST
Video released Friday shows the husband of former U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi struggling with his assailant for control of a hammer moments before he was struck in the head during a brutal attack in the couple's San Francisco home last year.
Police body-camera footage shows David DePape wrest the tool from Paul Pelosi, 82, and lunge toward him with the weapon over his head. The blow to Pelosi occurs out of the camera's view and the officers - one of them cursing - rush into the house and one tackles 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 video release comes after a coalition of news agencies, including The Associated Press, sought access to the evidence that prosecutors played in court last month. The San Francisco district attorney had refused to make the exhibits available to journalists and defense lawyers fought their release.
A state court judge Wednesday ruled there was no reason to keep the video secret.
The evidence included portions of Paul Pelosi's 911 call on Oct. 28, as well as video from a Capitol police surveillance camera, a camera worn by one of the two police officers who arrived first at the house and nearly 18-minutes of audio from DePape's interview with police.
The Capitol Police video shows DePape approach a glass-panel door shortly after 2 a.m., leave and then return wearing a large backpack and carrying two other bags. He set the items down and pulled out a hammer, pausing to put on gloves, and used it to smash the door enough to force his way through an opening.
DePape, 43, has pleaded not guilty in state and federal cases and is jailed without bail. He faces charges including attempted murder, elder abuse, and assaulting an immediate family member of a federal official.
San Francisco Deputy Public Defender Adam Lipson, who represents DePape, called the video's release a “terrible mistake.”
“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,” Lipson said in a statement.
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 broke in. Nancy Pelosi was in Washington at the time and protected by a security detail that does not extend to family members.
After DePape confronted Paul Pelosi in his bedroom, Pelosi tried to make it to an elevator in the home to reach a phone, but DePape blocked his way, authorities previously said. Pelosi then told DePape he had to use the restroom, where his cellphone was charging, allowing him to call 911.
Police praised a dispatcher, who could hear DePape in the background, for recognizing the threat despite Pelosi's calm voice and coding the call as a priority, resulting in a faster police response.
San Francisco Officer Kolby Wilmes' body-camera video begins with officers approaching the home and rapping on the door. In the 20 seconds it takes for the door to open, the officers discuss whether they have the right house.
After the door swings open, 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 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 “Umm, nope.”
“Hey,” Pelosi says, wincing as DePape twists his wrist to wrest the hammer free. “Hey, hey, hey.”
DePape pulls the weapon loose and in a swift motion winds up with his right hand and delivers a vicious overhead blow as Pelosi disappears from view. An officer calls for backup as they struggle with DePape while Pelosi lies on the floor.
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.
Surprised to find Paul Pelosi in the home, DePape described most of their encounter as “pretty amicable,” but said he attacked him because he was on a mission.
DePape said the attack happened very quickly and he recalled how it took the officers by surprise.
“I yank the hammer away from him, I jump into action,” he said with excitement in his voice. “They jump into action. They're like on top of me instantly.”
DePape said he didn't remember how many times he struck Pelosi, but said it was with “full force.”
Paul Pelosi 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 to cover his wounds.
Speaking at the U.S. Capitol after the video's release, Nancy Pelosi said her husband “is making progress but it will take more time.”
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.
He said he planned to have a discussion with his hostage and would “break her kneecaps” if she lied.
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, explaining that he refused to surrender.
Nancy Pelosi said she had not seen the videos or heard the police interview.
“I have absolutely no intention of seeing the deadly assault on my husband,” she said.
The U.S. Capitol Police investigated nearly 10,000 threats to members last year, more than twice the number from four years earlier. The department faced heavy criticism in the aftermath of the attack on Paul Pelosi. The agency has access to about 1,800 cameras, including one on the couple's house that was not being monitored during the attack because the speaker was not there.
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.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Biden continues to condemn political violence.
“I think you don't even need a video to know how horrific and unconscionable the attack on Paul Pelosi was, and to be very honest it's a miracle that Paul was not more seriously injured and we are grateful that he is on his way and continues to recover,” she said Friday.
Associated Press writers Lindsay Whitehurst, Lisa Mascaro and Darlene Superville in Washington contributed to this report.