The husband of United States House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been “violently assaulted” in the couple’s home in San Francisco, her office and law enforcement agencies say.
San Francisco Police Chief William Scott identified the suspect in Friday’s attack as 42-year-old David Depape, saying he used a hammer to strike Paul Pelosi, 82.
Citing unidentified sources, the Associated Press news agency and CNN reported that the attacker was searching for the House speaker as he entered the home, shouting: “Where is Nancy? Where is Nancy?”
“Mr Depape will be booked at the San Francisco County Jail on the following charges: attempted homicide, assault with a deadly weapon, elder abuse, burglary and several other additional felonies,” the police chief told reporters, offering no further details about the suspect.
Moreover, Scott said the incident was “not a random act”. “This was intentional. And it’s wrong,” he added.
Scott also suggested that police officers witnessed the attack. “Our officers observed Mr Pelosi and the suspect both holding a hammer,” he said.
“The suspect pulled the hammer away from Mr Pelosi and violently assaulted him with it. Our officers immediately tackled the suspect, disarmed him, took him into custody, requested emergency backup and rendered medical aid.”
The leader of the House of Representatives’ office said later on Friday that Paul Pelosi “underwent successful surgery to repair a skull fracture” and other injuries, adding that he is expected to make a “full recovery”.
CNN said a Facebook page it confirmed as belonging to the suspect contained posts featuring false allegations of fraud in the 2020 elections and COVID-19 conspiracy theories. The page has been taken down, CNN reported. A blog page with Depape’s name also has numerous posts raging against “censorship” by “Tech giants”.
Drew Hammill, a spokesperson for the Democratic speaker’s office, said in a statement that Paul Pelosi was taken to hospital, where he “underwent successful surgery to repair a skull fracture and serious injuries to his right arm and hands.”
Al Jazeera’s Rosiland Jordan, reporting from Washington, DC, said the attacker allegedly broke into the Pelosi home in San Francisco at approximately 02:30am local time (09:30 GMT) and attempted to tie up Paul Pelosi but police had been alerted and intervened.
The House Speaker had landed in San Francisco and was travelling to the hospital to be with her husband, Jordan said.
“She has issued a statement thanking the country for their prayers and for their support, but she is asking for privacy while they try to deal, not just with her husband’s injuries but this is, or course, now a criminal case,” Jordan said.
The suspect has been charged with attempted homicide, elder abuse and other felonies, Jordan said, adding that a motive for the attack was not yet known.
“We are in an environment, here in the United States, where there is not just growing distrust of politicians and of other government officials, but we’re seeing an increase in attempts to attack these people who are engaged in public service,” Jordan said.
The White House said that President Joe Biden called Nancy Pelosi after the “horrible attack”.
“The president is praying for Paul Pelosi and for Speaker Pelosi’s whole family,” White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement.
At a Democratic event in Philadelphia, Biden decried the attack calling it “despicable” and had no place in America.
“There’s too much violence, political violence. Too much hatred. Too much vitriol,” Biden said.
“What makes us think it’s not going to corrode the political climate? Enough is enough is enough.”
Chuck Schumer, the leader of Democrats in the Senate, also said he spoke with Pelosi to convey his “deepest concern and heartfelt wishes” and called the assault a “dastardly act”.
The attack was carried out less than two weeks ahead of November 8 midterm elections in which control of Congress, including the speakership of the House of Representatives, is up for grabs.
As a veteran Democrat, Nancy Pelosi, 82, is a frequent target of Republican criticism. Her office was ransacked during the January 6, 2021, riot at the US Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump.
Paul Pelosi owns a San Francisco-based real estate and venture capital firm. He made headlines this year when he was convicted of a misdemeanor charge of driving under the influence of alcohol, for which he was sentenced to five days in jail. He has been married to Nancy Pelosi for nearly 60 years.
US Capitol Police, the agency responsible for the safety of members of Congress, said it was jointly investigating the assault with the FBI and the San Francisco Police Department, confirming that Speaker Pelosi was in Washington, DC, at the time of the incident.
“The San Francisco Police Department has the suspect in custody. The motivation for the attack is still under investigation,” Capitol Police said in a statement.
— Rep. Pramila Jayapal (@RepJayapal) October 28, 2022
Politicians in Washington, DC were quick to denounce the assault.
“I am sickened by the assault on Paul Pelosi and the break-in of Speaker Pelosi’s home,” Congressman Ro Khanna, a California Democrat, wrote on Twitter. “They have been pillars of the Bay Area for decades and their home a welcome place for so many community members. Wishing Paul a full and speedy recovery.”
Democratic Congresswoman Barbara Lee, also of California, called news of the attack “horrific”.
“My thoughts and prayers are with the Pelosi family during this incredibly difficult time, and I am relieved to hear Paul is expected to make a full recovery,” Lee said in a social media post.
Republican officials also condemned the incident. “Horrified and disgusted by the reports that Paul Pelosi was assaulted in his and Speaker Pelosi’s home last night. Grateful to hear that Paul is on track to make a full recovery and that law enforcement including our stellar Capitol Police are on the case,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell wrote on Twitter.
Former Vice President Mike Pence expressed outrage and called for prosecuting the suspect to the “fullest extent of the law”.