SAN FRANCISCO, Oct 29: The husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was attacked and severely beaten with a hammer by an assailant who broke into the couple’s San Francisco home early on Friday, searching for the Democratic leader and shouting, “Where is Nancy, where is Nancy?”
The assault on the 82-year-old Paul Pelosi injected new uneasiness into the nation’s already toxic political climate, just 11 days before the midterm elections.
It carried chilling echoes of the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the Capitol, when rioters chanted menacingly for the speaker as they rampaged through the halls trying to halt certification of Joe Biden’s victory over Donald Trump.
Speaker Pelosi, who was in Washington at the time of the California attack, arrived in San Francisco late Friday and went straight to the hospital where her husband was being treated for injuries.
“This was not a random act. This was intentional. And it’s wrong,” said San Francisco Police Chief William Scott.
He said the emergency 911 dispatcher’s intuition was “lifesaving,” and the police chief appeared to hold back emotion as strongly rejected the violence in politics.
“Our elected officials are here to do the business of their cities and their counties and their states. Their families don’t sign up for this,” Scott said. “Everybody should be disgusted about what happened this morning.”
Forty-two-year-old David DePape was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder, elder abuse and burglary, and remained in the hospital late Friday, police said.
Paul Pelosi underwent surgery to repair a skull fracture and serious injuries to his right arm and hands, the speaker’s office said. His doctors expect a full recovery.
Biden quickly called Speaker Pelosi with support and later delivered a full-throated condemnation of the “despicable” attack that he said had no place in America.
“There’s too much violence, political violence. Too much hatred. Too much vitriol,” Biden said Friday night at a Democratic rally in Pennsylvania.
“What makes us think it’s not going to corrode the political climate? Enough is enough is enough.”
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell tweeted he was “horrified and disgusted” by the assault.
The nation’s political rhetoric has become increasingly alarming, with ominous threats to lawmakers at an all-time high.
The House speaker and other congressional leaders are provided 24-hour security, and increasingly more other members now receive police protection.
This, as crime and public safety have emerged as top issues for voters in the election.
In San Francisco on Friday, police were called at about 2.30 a.m. to the Pelosi residence to check on Paul Pelosi, said Scott.
Scott confirmed that the intruder gained entry through the rear door of the home, which is in the upscale Pacific Heights neighbourhood. Investigators believe the intruder broke through glass-paneled doors, according to two people familiar with the situation.
Paul Pelosi called 911 himself after telling the intruder he had to use the restroom, where his phone was charging, according to another person familiar with the situation and granted anonymity to discuss it.
The person said the intruder confronted the speaker’s husband shouting, “Where is Nancy?”
Scott said the dispatcher figured out there was “something more” than she was being told, resulting in a priority dispatch and faster police response. “I think this was lifesaving,” he noted.
Inside, police discovered the suspect, DePape, and Paul Pelosi struggling over a hammer, and told them to drop it, Scott said. DePape yanked the hammer from Pelosi and began beating him with it, striking at least one blow, before being tackled by officers and arrested, Scott said.
The FBI and Capitol Police are also part of the joint investigation.
Police said a motive for Friday’s intrusion was still to be determined, but three people with knowledge of the investigation told The Associated Press that DePape targeted Pelosi’s home.
Those people were not authorized to talk publicly about an ongoing probe and spoke on condition of anonymity. He was booked in the county jail.
The speaker had returned to Washington this week after being abroad and had been scheduled to appear with Vice President Kamala Harris at a fundraising event Saturday night for the LGBTQ group Human Rights Campaign.
Pelosi cancelled her appearance. (AP)