A hammer-wielding man attacked the husband of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi during a break-in at the couple’s San Francisco home early Friday, authorities said, in an attack that raised fears of political violence ahead of the Nov. 8 midterm elections .
Paul Pelosi, 82, was taken to a hospital for treatment and is expected to make a full recovery, Pelosi’s office said. Several media reported that he underwent surgery.
The man arrested at the scene, David Depapp, 42, will be charged with attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, elder abuse, burglary and several other crimes, San Francisco Police Chief William Scott said.
The Democratic speaker of the House of Representatives, who is second in the constitutional line of succession to the US presidency, was in Washington with his bodyguards at the time of the attack, according to US Capitol Police.
Authorities are still investigating a motive for the pre-dawn attack, which was observed and interrupted by officers dispatched to Pelosi’s home for a “priority welfare check,” Scott told reporters.
The intruder yelled, “Where’s Nancy at?” before attacking her husband, CNN and The Washington Post reported, citing unnamed sources. CNN said the attacker also told police at the scene that he was “waiting for Nancy.”
Recent posts on several Internet sites by a user named “daviddepape” include references to anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, criticism of women, “satanic pedophilia,” censorship by tech companies and other far-right political topics. Older posts advertise quartz crystals and hemp bracelets. Reuters could not confirm that the posts were made by the suspect.
It’s unclear how the intruder got into the three-story red brick townhouse in the affluent Pacific Heights neighborhood. Aerial photos show broken glass on a door at the back of the house. Streets around the residence were closed Friday morning.
WARNINGS OF ELECTION RELATED VIOLENCE
The attack came less than two weeks before the midterm elections, in which control of the US House of Representatives and Senate is at stake.
Scott said police were called to the house at 2:27 a.m. Pacific Time (0927 GMT), where they encountered Depape and Paul Pelosi fighting over a hammer before Depape pulled the hammer and attacked Pelosi.
Police officers confronted, disarmed and arrested Depape and took both men to a hospital for treatment, Scott said at a news briefing. He declined to answer questions and said police would provide more details later.
Several media outlets reported that Paul Pelosi underwent brain surgery, while the Associated Press reported that he was being treated for bruising and severe swelling. Reuters was unable to confirm those accounts.
President Joe Biden called Pelosi to express his support, according to White House spokeswoman Karin Jean-Pierre.
House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy also said he reached out to Pelosi, while Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said he was “appalled and disgusted” by the attack.
Capitol Police, which are responsible for protecting Congress, said they were working with the FBI and San Francisco police on the investigation.
New York City police warned Thursday that extremists could target politicians, political events and polling stations ahead of midterm elections.
Republicans campaigned on concerns about serious crime, as well as inflation and other quality-of-life issues. San Francisco’s crime rate in 2021 was 1.5 times the national average, according to several crime tracking websites.
As the leader of the Democratic Party in Washington and a longtime representative of one of America’s most liberal cities, Pelosi, 82, is a frequent target of Republican criticism and often features in attack ads.
Her office was ransacked during the January 6, 2021 raid on the Capitol by supporters of then-Republican President Donald Trump, some of whom chased her during the raid.
In January 2021, her home was vandalized with graffiti that said “Rent Quit” and “We want it all” painted on the house and a pig’s head left outside the garage, according to media reports.
McConnell’s home was also vandalized at the time.
Congressman Adam Kinzinger, one of two Republicans on a House panel on Jan. 6, decried the rise of inflammatory campaign rhetoric defaming political opponents and promoting lies about widespread voter fraud.
“When you convince people that politicians are rigging elections, drinking the blood of babies, etc., you’re going to get violence. This must be rejected,” he wrote on Twitter, urging Republican candidates and elected officials to “speak up, now.”
In a politically polarized climate, threats against Republicans and Democrats are on the rise. Capitol Police said they investigated 9,625 incidents in 2021, a nearly three-fold increase from 2017.
A gunman angered by Trump shot and wounded five Republican members of Congress at a baseball practice in 2017, and Democrat Gabby Giffords was shot in the head at a public appearance in 2011.
Paul Pelosi, who owns a San Francisco-based real estate and venture capital firm, was convicted of felony DUI after being involved in a car crash in May. He was sentenced to five days in jail in Napa County, California, but his sentence was offset by community service and credit for time already served immediately following his arrest.