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Shocking new details blow up conspiracy theories about Paul Pelosi attack

LA Times logo LA Times 10/31/2022 Summer Lin, Salvador Hernandez, Terry Castleman
Police stand outside the home of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her husband, Paul Pelosi, in San Francisco on Friday. (Eric Risberg / Associated Press) © Provided by LA Times Police stand outside the home of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her husband, Paul Pelosi, in San Francisco on Friday. (Eric Risberg / Associated Press)

More details emerged Monday after the Department of Justice filed federal kidnapping and assault charges against David DePape, the man accused in the attack last week against Paul Pelosi, the husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

DePape, 42, is accused of attacking Paul Pelosi with a hammer after breaking into the Pelosis' Pacific Heights home in San Francisco ib Friday morning. DePape was charged with assault on an immediate family member of a federal official, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison, and attempted kidnapping of a federal official, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.

DePape also was charged by San Francisco Dist. Atty. Brooke Jenkins with attempted murder, residential burglary, assault with a deadly weapon, elder abuse, false imprisonment of an elder and threats to a public official and their family. He faces 13 years to life in prison if convicted of all local charges against him.

The federal complaint has debunked conspiracy theories that have spread on the internet, fueling rhetoric in right-wing circles and casting doubt on some of the facts of the attack. The conspiracy theories have gone from fringe to the mainstream, with members of Congress sharing them. A Times review of his online accounts show that DePape had been drifting further into the world of far-right conspiracies, antisemitism and hate.

How did the break-in happen?

DePape told officers in a recorded interview last week that he broke through a glass door in the home using a hammer, according to the criminal complaint. He said Paul Pelosi was in bed at the time and "appeared surprised" by him. DePape allegedly told Paul Pelosi to wake up and that he was "looking for Nancy," to which Paul Pelosi responded that she wasn't there. Paul Pelosi apparently asked DePape how they could resolve the situation.

Paul Pelosi said in a later interview with police that DePape told him he wanted to talk to "Nancy" and when Pelosi responded that his wife wasn't home and wouldn't be for several days, DePape responded that he would sit and wait.

Body-worn camera footage from police showed a broken laminated glass door near the door handle near the back porch of the home, backing DePape's account.

How did Paul Pelosi make the 911 call?

According to the federal criminal complaint, San Francisco dispatch received a call at about 2:23 a.m. from Paul Pelosi from his home in San Francisco. He told the dispatcher that there was a man inside the home and that the man was waiting for Nancy Pelosi.

DePape told police in a separate interview that once he was inside the home, he wanted to tie up Paul Pelosi so he could sleep because he was "tired from having had to carry a backpack." DePape allegedly took out zip ties from his pocket so he could restrain Paul Pelosi, but Pelosi moved to another part of the house. DePape allegedly stopped him and they went back into the bedroom.

Jenkins said during a Monday news conference that Pelosi tried to access a phone located in the household's elevator, but DePape blocked access to it. Pelosi was eventually able to get to the bathroom and use another phone to dial 911.

DePape confirmed in his account to police that Paul Pelosi went into the bathroom while they were talking and called 911 on his phone. DePape said he "felt like Pelosi's actions compelled him to respond" and that there was "no way the police were going to forget about the call." DePape said he stayed after the 911 call because "like the American founding fathers with the British, he was fighting against tyranny without the option of surrender."

How did the attack occur?

A San Francisco police officer arrived at the house at 2:31 a.m. and knocked on the front door, according to the complaint. DePape told police that he and Paul Pelosi had gone downstairs to the front door and Paul Pelosi opened the door for police. DePape also said that Paul Pelosi grabbed the hammer in DePape's hand, to which DePape responded that he wasn't going to surrender and would go "through" Paul Pelosi.

Once the door was opened, an officer saw Paul Pelosi and DePape both holding a hammer; DePape's other hand was holding Pelosi's forearm. Officers asked the men what was happening, to which DePape responded that "everything was good." Police told them to drop the hammer.

DePape allegedly pulled the hammer from Paul Pelosi and swung it, hitting him in the head, authorities said. Police restrained DePape while Paul Pelosi appeared to be unconscious on the ground.

Who owned the hammer?

Paul Pelosi told police in an interview Sunday that DePape had a hammer with him the entire time during the incident and that the hammer didn't belong to the Pelosis, according to the complaint.

What were DePape's alleged motivations?

Though police haven't publicly specified a motive for the attack, Jenkins said Monday that based on the comment DePape made to Paul Pelosi and his own statements, the attack was "politically motivated."

“It’s very sad to see that we are once again at the point in history where people believe that it’s OK to express their political sentiments through violence,” Jenkins said. “It demonstrates that we have to calm things down. We have to decide that we’re going to be more respectful as an American society.”

DePape allegedly revealed in an interview with police that he "was going to hold Nancy hostage and talk to her," according to the federal complaint. He would "let her go" if she told the "truth," but if she "lied," he would break "her kneecaps," the complaint said. DePape told authorities that he saw Nancy as the "leader of the pack of lies told by the Democratic Party" and that by breaking her kneecaps, she would have to be wheeled into Congress.

DePape also said that he wanted to "use Nancy to lure" another person to him, according to authorities.

His account contradicts right-wing and conservative pundits, who have dismissed the attack as a random incident, pointing instead to to rising crime.

In one segment, Fox News host Jesse Watters dismissed DePape’s racist and conspiratorial writings, saying only he, “read through a few of them and he looks mentally ill.”

Later, he credits crime with the attack.

“The Democrats and the media have been ignoring the crime wave only to cover it when Nancy Pelosi’s husband is attack,” he said Friday. “People are being hit with hammers every day.”

The criminal complaint detailed DePape’s political motivations, in which he told police he intended to break Nancy Pelosi’s kneecaps, to “show other Members of Congress there were consequences to actions.”

What did authorities allegedly recover from DePape?

Police allegedly removed a phone, clipper cards, cash and an unidentified card from DePape's shorts pocket immediately following the attack, according to the complaint. They also asked DePape if he had an ID on him, to which he responded that it could be in his backpack on the porch.

Officers searched DePape's backpack and found a roll of tape, a hammer, white rope, a pair of rubber and cloth gloves and a journal, the complaint states. Officers also found zip ties in the Pelosis' bedroom and in the hallway near the front door of the house.

On Saturday, authorities also searched the garage of a residence on Shasta Street in Richmond, where the owner of the home confirmed DePape apparently lived for about two years. Police executed a search warrant and found a sword, two hammers, a pair of rubber and cloth gloves, as well as IRS letters, PayPal credit cards and DMV paperwork belonging to DePape.

What was DePape wearing?

Some conspiracy theories alleging Paul Pelosi and DePape knew each other allege the attacker had been found in his underwear when police arrived, a claim that was made in one news report that has since been retracted. The conspiracy, however, is still being spread.

On Sunday night, former President Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., retweeted an image of men’s underwear and a hammer, a nod to the unfounded conspiracy theory.

In their investigation, however, police interviewed a witness who was working as a private security guard at a nearby address, and said that they saw someone in "all black, carrying a large black bag on his back" walking towards the Pelosis' home. The witness also said they heard banging on the door or the car and then sirens a minute or two later.

Paul Pelosi was wearing a nightshirt and underwear in bed when DePape surprised him, Jenkins said during the news conference.

Did Paul Pelosi and DePape know each other before the attack?

Authorities have said Paul Pelosi and DePape did not know each other prior to the attack, but the unfounded claim the two had prior history together continues to be spread online.

On Monday morning, U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene suggested in a tweet the attacker knew Pelosi, calling him, “Paul Pelosi’s friend.”

But the indictment directly contradicts several portions of this conspiracy theory.

Paul Pelosi told police while he was being transported to the San Francisco General Hospital that he had never seen DePape before that night and he was asleep when DePape broke into his bedroom, according to the complaint. He also told the dispatcher during the 911 call that he didn't know the identity of the man who broke into his home, but that the man said his name is David.

DePape also confirmed Pelosi's account, telling them he broke through a glass door to get access to the house.

Was DePape living in a house that displayed BLM and LGBTQ support?

Conservative figures have continued to try to link DePape to Democratic or left-wing causes, often sharing an image of a supposed home of the alleged attacker displaying support for Black Lives Matter and an LGBTQ rainbow flag.

Ben Shaprio, on his popular conservative podcast, also read an excerpt from the Substack blog of writer Michael Shellenberger, which has widely circulated online. The writer describes a Berkeley house displaying left-wing flags and signs as the home of Oxane Taub and DePape's former home.

DePape, however, does not reside there. The criminal complaint states that DePape lived in a garage in the backyard of a home in Richmond.

DePape's writings on blogs also show he had been drifting into right-wing conspiracies, espousing antisemitic, racist, misogynistic views. He touched often on unfounded theories like QAnon, Gamergate, and Pizzagate, among others.

When did DePape start posting right-wing conspiracies online?

Although DePape left a series of racist and conspiratorial right-wing writings online, some conspiracists have tried to dismiss them as fabrications.

The conspiracy theory is that the blogs were created Friday, on the day of the attack as a way to link Republicans and conservatives in the violent attack.

"They Were Created Friday and Deleted Saturday,” one person on Twitter claimed. However, one of DePape's sites, which was reviewed by The Times, shows he started writing posts in August. The site's most recent domain name was registered Sept. 8.

The Gateway Pundit, a site known for repeatedly posting misinformation, also suggested the sites were fabricated "to smear conservatives."

DePape's daughter, however, confirmed to The Times that DePape was the author of the blog, sharing some of the links with her and at times posting intimate text conversations between himself and his daughter.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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