SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — A 42-year-old Berkeley man is accused of breaking into House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco house and beating her husband with a hammer before dawn Friday.
San Francisco Police Chief William Scott identified the man as David Wayne DePape. “Our officers tackled the suspect, disarmed him, and took him into custody,” the police chief said. In the hours since DePape’s name was announced, a social media firestorm ignited over who DePape is, and whether he is on the left or right of America’s political spectrum.
Here’s what we know so far about DePape.
DePape is a nudism enthusiast
DePape is part of a nudist advocacy group in San Francisco’s Castro district, State Senator Scott Wiener told KRON4. “I’ve been aware of him for a long time because he was associated with the public nudity folks in the Castro. It’s a long history with him,” Wiener said.
DePape is also known around Berkeley as a pro-nudity activist. He has picketed naked at protests against laws requiring people to be clothed in public. An Associated Press photographer shot images of DePape while he was attending and recording video of a nude wedding outside San Francisco City Hall in 2013.
He targeted a Democrat
His target was Nancy Pelosi, sources told the Associated Press. DePape shouted, “Where is Nancy?” before he violently attacked the Speaker’s 82-year-old husband, Paul Pelosi, the AP reported.
Nancy Pelosi was not home in San Francisco. She was in Washington and was scheduled to deliver a keynote speech Saturday with Vice President Kamala Harris. Paul Pelosi was home, and he suffered blunt force injuries, police said.
“This was not a random act. This was intentional,” Scott said at Friday evening’s news conference.
The Speaker flew back to San Francisco after she was notified of the attack. She issued a statement saying her husband underwent surgery for a skull facture.
DePape is a conspiracy theorist
DePape is a fringe conspiracy theorist. “We know that this person has a long history of fringe conspiracy theory views,” Wiener said.
A blog titled “God Is Loving” was written by an author named David DePape. The blog focused on “Big Brother” conspiracy theories and censorship. The author rails against an “elite ruling class” of mainstream media and technology companies for censoring people not in power.
In a post written in August, the author writes, “The elites/ruling class never censor themselves. You can still turn on any mainstream news channel to hear day and night the narrative put forth by the people who rule you. The founding father built in protection against censorship coming from the government because they never imagined a day when Tech giants and private industry would be so powerful they could single handedly silence the people.”
The blog was removed from WordPress on Friday. It’s unclear why it was removed.
DePape appears to have made racist, and often rambling, posts online, including some that questioned the results of the 2020 election, defended Donald Trump, and echoed QAnon conspiracy theories.
Online posts under DePape’s name repeated false claims about COVID vaccines, questioned whether climate change is real and displayed an illustration of a zombified Hillary Clinton eating human flesh.
He was estranged from his family
DePape once lived in a public storage unit and he was estranged from his children and partner, according to Linda Schneider.
Schneider said DePape helped out with her urban farm, housesat for her friend, and struggled with communicating. “David was excessively shy, and he reported to me that he had a history of not being able to communicate with anybody at all. He was terrified of speaking. He (was) likely a mindless follower of something he saw on social media because I don’t think he had the courage to be part of any political or terrorist group,” said Schneider, who was also interviewed by CNN.
DePape’s drug use caused Schneider to later distance herself from him. “His drug use began again and he went off his rocker,” she told KRON4.
Born in British Columbia
He grew up in Powell River, British Columbia, before leaving two decades ago to follow an older girlfriend to San Francisco. The girlfriend, named Gypsy, and DePape had two children together, his stepfather told the Associated Press. DePape also has a child with a different woman, his stepfather said.
DePape remains in custody
DePape is the custody of the San Francisco Police Department with no bail, inmate records show. He is being treated for injuries at a hospital, the SFPD said, and he will eventually be booked into jail. Police Chief Scott said he will not confirm nor deny if DePape was placed under a “5150,” meaning, a psychiatric hold.
“The suspect is still in the hospital. It’s not appropriate for me to release any of the suspect’s medical information,” Scott said Friday evening. “We intend to book the suspect. He will be booked for felony charges.”
Scott said a 911 dispatcher likely saved Paul Pelosi’s life. The dispatcher’s decisions with limited information, “was life saving,” the police chief said. When the first officers arrived at the house, DePape had already broken into the house through a backdoor, Scott said.
Paul Pelosi and DePape were inside the house struggling for control of the same hammer, the police chief said. DePape gained control and severely beat the Speaker’s husband until officers tackled DePape to stop the attack, Scott said.
DePape is facing a slew of charges, including: attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, first-degree burglary, threatening a family member of a public official, inflicting injury on an elder, battery with serious bodily injury, and dissuading a witness.
District Attorney Brooke Jenkins wrote, “As of now, we believe there will be enough evidence to charge multiple felonies: attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, burglary and elder abuse.”
Jenkins added, “Although DePape’s motives are still under investigation, there is absolutely no place for violent attacks like this in our community. No one should be the target of this kind of violence, let alone our leaders and their families in their own homes. The investigation into this horrific attack continues.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.