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Court Releases Body Cam Video, 911 Call of Brutal Attack on Paul Pelosi

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view looking downhill towards two-story red brick home, with 'police line do not cross' yellow tape in foreground
Police tape is seen in front of the Pacific Heights home of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Oct. 28, 2022, in San Francisco. Paul Pelosi, husband of Speaker Pelosi, was violently attacked in the home by an intruder. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

A court on Friday released graphic video and audio recordings from the night Paul Pelosi, the husband of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, was attacked with a hammer in the family's San Francisco home last year.

The release, which includes police body camera video and a recording of Pelosi’s 911 call, was ordered earlier this week by a San Francisco Superior Court judge in response to a legal motion from a coalition of media organizations, including KQED.

David DePape, who is being charged with attempted murder in the attack, broke into Pelosi's home in Pacific Heights in the early morning of Oct. 28, and demanded to see Nancy Pelosi, who was not home at the time. DePape reportedly told Paul Pelosi he would wait for her.

The recording of Pelosi's call to 911, made just after 2:20 a.m., lasts less than three minutes. "There's a gentleman here waiting for my wife to come back, Nancy Pelosi," he calmly tells the dispatcher.

"Is the Capitol Police around? They're usually here protecting my wife," Pelosi asks, in an apparent effort to subtly hint at the urgency of the situation, without setting off DePape.

When the operator asks Pelosi if he needs the police or fire department to come, Pelosi directs the question to DePape, asking, "What do you think?"

Pelosi then tells the dispatcher, "He thinks everything's good. I've got a problem. ... He's telling me to put the phone down."

Within minutes, at least two San Francisco police officers knocked on Pelosi's door, which, in the video, either Pelosi or DePape slowly opens. The officers encounter the two men standing next to each other, each with a hand on a single hammer, police body camera footage shows. Pelosi appears to be in his boxer shorts.

Warning: This police bodycam video includes scenes of graphic violence.

When the police order DePape to "drop the hammer," he says, "No," yanks the hammer away from Pelosi and, after a brief scuffle, lunges at him, hitting Pelosi in the head with it.

One of the officers yells, "Oh, shit!," before at least two of them rush through the door and tackle DePape.

In the footage, Pelosi is seen lying facedown on the floor, with DePape's legs and feet on top of his back.

"Give me your fucking hand," an officer yells twice to DePape as he tries to handcuff him. The police then call for emergency medical assistance for Pelosi. The tape ends after less than two minutes.

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Pelosi, 82, was taken to San Francisco General Hospital, where he underwent surgery for a skull fracture. He remained there for almost a week, before being released. He is still recovering from the attack but has recently been seen at several events with his wife, including a visit to the White House.

Hours after the release of the footage, Nancy Pelosi said she had not watched any of it.

"I have absolutely no intention of seeing the deadly assault on my husband’s life," she said, adding that she would not comment any further on the incident.

The court also released an audio recording of a female police officer interrogating DePape after the incident. DePape acknowledges that he broke the glass on Pelosi's downstairs door to enter the home.

"It was not easy," DePape says, adding that he likely cut his hand in the process.

The officer, whose tone is calm and empathetic, elicits a full confession from DePape, who describes what he did and why. His explanation begins with a conspiracy-laden political analysis of U.S. politics.

The officer asks DePape if he thinks Nancy Pelosi had done anything to him. He responds, "Not me personally. But to the American people," and refers to "all the fucking lies."

The attack on Pelosi is among a growing number of violent and sometimes deadly incidents targeting political figures that have been at least partly fueled by unfounded online conspiracy theories.

In the interview with the officer, DePape describes the encounter with Pelosi as "mostly amiable ... except for that," referring to the hammer attack.

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DePape, who is being represented by a San Francisco public defender, has pleaded not guilty to the charges. His next court appearance is scheduled for Feb. 23, when a trial date is expected to be set.

In asking the court to release the audio and video footage shown earlier in open court, attorneys for the media coalition cited the First Amendment and the right to public access.

In opposing the motion, the San Francisco Public Defender's Office said graphic footage of the attack would be "used, manipulated and altered" in ways that would "irreparably harm" DePape's right to a fair trial.

The San Francisco District Attorney’s Office also opposed the release of the recordings, warning they would only fuel more unfounded theories about the brutal assault on Pelosi. And they were not alone.

Jon Lewis, a research fellow with the Program on Extremism at George Washington University, said he shares those concerns. While acknowledging the compelling reasons for the news media and researchers to have access to this footage, Lewis said he remains apprehensive that the widespread dissemination of the video and recordings could stoke violence and be used as propaganda by right-wing extremists.

"I think one of the biggest concerns when we talk about the release of full, unedited video of political violence … is that this is not going to dispel the existing conspiracy theories that are already out there about this attack," he said. "There is no one who was on the fence over whether or not this was an act of political violence, over the seriousness or significance of this, that is going to go watch that video and suddenly have their mind changed."

Lewis noted that many domestic terrorists — in the United States and abroad — have increasingly taken to using body cameras to livestream their horrific attacks.

"They wanted to livestream and broadcast their violence in the hopes that it would inspire others to do the same," Lewis said. "And obviously, here in this case, there’s no evidence that the alleged attacker did. But now you basically get a not too dissimilar result from the public dissemination of the video."

The "right-wing extremist ecosystem,” he added, regularly takes recorded acts of violence and builds them into their propaganda as a way to incite more violence.

Lewis tied Pelosi’s attack to broader assaults on democracy, including the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, when supporters of President Donald Trump tried to overturn the results of a democratic election. Those efforts have become less focused since then, he said, but have not lost steam.

KQED's Marisa Lagos contributed to this story.

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