Graphic Video of Hammer Attack on Paul Pelosi Released to Public
Graphic bodycam footage of an October attack against Paul Pelosi, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband, was released to the public on Friday. The release of video footage, along with recordings of a 911 call and interviews with the attacker David DePape, was authorized by a California court following a joint motion brought by several news outlets.
Pelosi was violently assaulted by DePape while at his and the former speaker’s home in San Francisco. DePape allegedly broke into the residence looking for Speaker Pelosi before bludgeoning Paul Pelosi with a hammer. Pelosi was hospitalized and underwent brain surgery to repair his injuries.
The bodycam footage released Friday is graphic. It depicts officers arriving at the Pelosi home and, after knocking on the door several times, Pelosi answering while seemingly attempting to keep a hand on a hammer DePape is holding. An officer instructs DePape to drop the hammer, after which DePape says “Nope,” wrestles the instrument out of Pelosi’s grip and strikes him with it. The officers subdue DePape while Pelosi lies incapacitated on the ground.
Pelosi’s 911 call and surveillance video from within the home were also released. In the call Pelosi, speaking while DePape can be heard in the background, tells the dispatcher that the man in his home “wants to wait for my wife to come home.” Pelosi also asks if Capitol Police, usually present as security for the former speaker, were around. He indicated that he didn’t know DePape, who had instructed him “not to do anything.”
“He’s telling me to put the phone down and just do what he says,” Pelosi told dispatch, hanging up after DePape seemingly pressured him to abandon the call.
Audio of interviews with DePape was also released. In one clip, he compares himself to the Founding Fathers. “It’s like the Founding Fathers,” he said. “They fought the British, they fought the tyranny … When I left my house, I left to go fight tyranny.”
In the immediate aftermath of the attack, right-wing commentators fomented conspiracy theories suggesting that reports of a break in were a cover up for a secret affair between DePape and Pelosi. The claims were contradicted by interviews DePape gave to police, in which he asserted that he had entered the house searching for Nancy Pelosi, who was not home at the time, and planned to break “her kneecaps” if she did not answer his questions to her satisfaction. Officers found a list of potential targets in a journal belonging to DePape, who told investigators he would have liked to see Pelosi “wheeled into Congress, which would show other Members of Congress there were consequences to actions.”
A Rolling Stone review of DePape’s social media found an extensive history of extremist views, including beliefs shared with adherents of the QAnon conspiracy theory.
The conspiracy theories about the attack were boosted by Twitter owner Elon Musk, who tweeted (and later deleted) a story from the notorious right-wing misinformation rag The Santa Monica Observer. The piece claimed that Pelosi was not the victim of a break in, but that the attack was part of a domestic dispute with a male prostitute. Musk’s tweet contributed to several trending hashtags including “PelosiGayLover,” “PelosiSmollett,” “PelosiGate,” and “Listen to the 911.”
Those promoting the theories focused on reports that Pelosi had managed to covertly dial 911 while attempting to negotiate with the intruder in his home. In the alleged recording, Pelosi refers to DePape as a “friend” in his efforts to notify the dispatcher without revealing to DePape that he was on the line with authorities. When officers arrived at the scene, they reportedly encountered Pelosi and DePape struggling over a hammer. DePape gained the upper hand and struck him over the head. The final moments of the struggle were reportedly captured on bodycam footage.
Despite warnings from prosecutors that the release of materials from the scene could provide further fodder to conspiracy theorists, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Stephen M. Murphy ruled that the release of the footage benefited the public interest.
Former Speaker Pelosi has indicated that she is unsure if she will choose to watch the footage. “It will be a very hard thing to see an assault on my husband’s life,” Pelosi told reporters on Thursday.