The man who hit US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband in the head with a hammer, shouting “Where’s Nancy?” after breaking into the couple’s San Francisco home, he was charged with attempted murder and other crimes a day later.
Police initially refused to provide a motive for Friday’s assault on Paul Pelosi, 82, who his wife’s office said underwent surgery for a fractured skull and injuries to his right arm and hand , although doctors expect a full recovery.
But the incident has stoked fears of political violence less than two weeks before the Nov. 8 midterm elections that will decide control of the House of Representatives and Senate, in the most vitriolic and polarized U.S. political climate in decades. decades.
The 82-year-old Speaker of the House, herself a Democrat who is second in the constitutional succession to the US presidency, was in Washington at the time of the attack.
She flew to San Francisco to be with her husband. Three dark-colored SUVs believed to belong to a special security department were parked with a city police cruiser Sunday outside Zuckerberg General Hospital in San Francisco, where Paul Pelosi was admitted.
Paul Pelosi Jr., the couple’s son, was also in the hospital. Asked by a reporter for an update on his father, he replied: “So far so good.”
President Joe Biden, speaking to reporters in Wilmington, Delaware, on Sunday said he understands Pelosi’s husband “seems to be doing much better” and that the attack appears to have been “aimed at Nancy.”
Police identified the man arrested at the scene as David DePape, 42. He too was taken to a hospital in San Francisco.
The sheriff’s records online showed he was taken into custody on suspicion of attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, elder abuse, battery, burglary and several other crimes. Formal charges will be filed Monday and his arraignment is expected Tuesday, according to the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office.
San Francisco Police Chief William Scott told a news conference Friday night that police detectives, assisted by FBI agents, have yet to determine what precipitated the invasion. home, but said, “We know it wasn’t a random act.”
A statement from Nancy Pelosi spokesperson Drew Hammill said Pelosi’s husband was attacked “by an assailant who acted forcefully and threatened his life while demanding to see the president.”
The intruder shouted, “Where’s Nancy?” before attacking, according to a person briefed on the incident who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity.
FROM HEMP TO HATE?
In the search for a motive, attention turned to the suspect’s apparent internet profile.
In recent posts on several websites, a netizen named “daviddepape” voiced his support for former President Donald Trump and embraced the cult-like QAnon conspiracy theory. The posts included references to “satanic pedophilia”, anti-Semitic tropes and criticism of women, transgender people and censorship by tech companies.
Older posts promoted quartz crystals and hemp bracelets. Reuters could not confirm that the posts were created by the man arrested on Friday.
Extremism experts say the man who attacked Pelosi’s husband could be an example of a growing trend they call “stochastic terrorism”, in which sometimes unstable individuals are inspired to violence through speeches of hate and scenarios they see online and hear echoed by public figures.
“This was clearly a targeted attack. The intent was to locate and potentially injure the Speaker of the House,” said John Cohen, former counterterrorism coordinator and intelligence chief at the Security Department. interior who is working with US law enforcement on the issue.
The San Francisco Chronicle published a photo of a man it identified as DePape dancing at the 2013 wedding of two nudist activists in San Francisco, despite being fully clothed. DePape, then a hemp jewelry maker who lived with the couple in Berkeley, was the best man, the newspaper reported.
Scott said the intruder forced his way into the three-story red brick townhouse in Pelosis through a back door. Aerial photos showed shards of glass in the back of the house in the affluent neighborhood of Pacific Heights.
The chief said police were dispatched for a “priority health check” around 2:30 a.m. based on a somewhat cryptic 911 emergency call from the residence. Other news outlets reported that the call was made by Paul Pelosi.
Scott credited the 911 operator with using her experience and intuition to “understand there was more to this incident than was being told” by the caller, so she sent the call with a higher priority than normal. Scott called his decision “saving”.
According to Scott, police arriving at the scene saw DePape and Pelosi struggling with a hammer through the front door. As officers yelled at the two men to drop the tool, DePape snatched the hammer away and was seen hitting Pelosi at least once, the chief said.
Officers then attacked, disarmed and arrested DePape and took both men to the hospital, Scott said.
The incident came a day after New York police warned extremists could target politicians, political events and polling places ahead of the midterm elections.
U.S. Capitol Police said they investigated 9,625 threats against lawmakers from both parties in 2021, nearly triple from 2017.
As a Democratic leader in Washington and a longtime representative of one of America’s most liberal cities, Nancy Pelosi is a frequent target of Republican criticism.
Her office was ransacked during the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol by supporters of then-Republican President Trump, some of whom searched for her during the assault.
In January 2021, his home was vandalized with a pig’s head graffiti left in front of the garage, media reported. The house of Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell was also vandalized around this time.
(Reporting by Nathan Frandino in San Francisco and Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Additional reporting by Andrea Shalal, Andy Sullivan, Brendan O’Brien, Jonathan Allen, Doina Chiacu, Rich McKay, Rami Ayyub, Tim Ahmann, Dan Whitcomb, Ismail Shakil , Tyler Clifford and Gram Slattery; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Jonathan Oatis, Alistair Bell and Daniel Wallis)
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