By Megan Cassidy
Source San Francisco Chronicle
In the span of a few crucial minutes, Paul Pelosi may have saved his own life — with the help of an alert San Francisco dispatcher.
The 82-year-old husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appears to have secretly dialed 9-1-1 and left the phone line open after a man busted into the couple's Pacific Heights home looking for his wife, reportedly asking, "Where is Nancy?"
What Paul Pelosi said enabled the dispatcher, at 2:32 a.m. Friday, to elevate the call to an emergency, according to police officials and police audio dispatches.
Two minutes later, Officers Kolby Wilmes and Kyle Cagney arrived at the front door, officials said. They tackled the intruder, identified as 42-year-old East Bay resident David DePape, moments after he allegedly struck Paul Pelosi with a hammer, leaving him in need of surgery to repair a fractured skull and injuries to his right arm and hands.
Paul Pelosi is expected to make a full recovery after the bizarre episode, which comes as his wife plays an increasingly central role in far-right conspiracy theories such as the QAnon mass delusion. DePape, a former Green party member and nudism advocate who appears to have undergone a radical political conversion, had filled websites with these theories along with bigoted screeds directed at people of color, women, Jewish people and others.
State Sen. Scott Wiener, a Democrat from San Francisco, said that he believes these online conspiracies are inciting people to violence, and that politicians like himself and Pelosi, who are particularly reviled by the right wing, have become targets.
On Saturday, the speaker issued her first public statement since the attack, saying, "Our children, our grandchildren and I are heartbroken and traumatized by the life-threatening attack on our Pop." She expressed gratitude for "the quick response of law enforcement and emergency services, and for the life-saving medical care he is receiving," as well as for "the outpouring of prayers and warm wishes from so many in Congress."
Complete details of what happened inside the Pelosis' stately home on Broadway remain unknown. But what transpired in those key moments led San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott and District Attorney Brooke Jenkins to laud the emergency dispatcher, Heather Grives, who took Paul Pelosi's call.
"When you have an experienced dispatcher with good instincts, they learn how to read between the lines," Scott said. "She knew something more was going on, just in her heart and her intuition, just with her experience."
"I want to thank 9-1-1 dispatcher Heather Grives, who took the call from Mr. Pelosi, instinctually realized that something was wrong, and immediately called police to respond," Jenkins said. "Thanks to her quick decision, officers Kolby Wilmes and Kyle Cagney responded within two minutes and apprehended Mr. DePape and likely saved Mr. Pelosi's life."
There is no indication on the tapes that police knew immediately the incident was occurring at the home of one of the nation's most powerful politicians.
Arrested at the scene, DePape was booked on suspicion of several criminal counts including attempted murder. Scott said DePape was hospitalized, but would not say whether he was receiving medical or psychiatric treatment, or both. Kelvin Wu, a spokesperson for San Francisco County, added Saturday that DePape remained "locked up" at the hospital.
Notably, police, without elaborating, accused DePape of dissuading a witness from reporting a crime and damaging a communication device to prevent someone from using it to seek help. The latter allegation is often used in cases where a phone is taken or smashed.
Jenkins seeks to file formal charges Monday, and DePape is expected to be arraigned Tuesday in San Francisco Superior Court.
"Violence like this has no place in San Francisco, or our politics, and we will hold Mr. DePape accountable to the fullest extent of the law," Jenkins said Saturday in a statement.
Scott, speaking at a news conference Friday night, said authorities received Paul Pelosi's 911 call at 2:28 a.m., after DePape forced entry into the back of the home. The chief did not say how much time may have transpired between the break-in and the call.
Scott also did not comment on reports that Paul Pelosi had told the intruder he needed to go to the bathroom before surreptitiously calling 911.
In any event, according to audio of the city's police radio communications, a dispatcher working with Grives broadcast at 2:28 a.m. that a 911 caller had "stated there's a male in the home and that he's going to wait for his wife."
The 9-1-1 caller "stated that he doesn't know who the male is but he (the intruder) advised that his name is David and that he is a friend." The dispatcher said the caller "sounded somewhat confused."
Scott said the dispatcher who received the call was suspicious enough about what she heard from Paul Pelosi that she boosted the priority from a "well-being check" to a "Code 3" emergency. The chief suggested Saturday morning that Pelosi was trying to give indications that something was wrong without directly saying it in front of the suspect.
Records show the emergency was broadcast at 2:32 a.m., and that officers arrived two minutes after that.
"She just knew there was more to it," Scott said of the dispatcher.
When police arrived, they knocked on the front door, prompting someone inside — it's not clear who — to open it, the chief said. Through the open door, officers — still standing outside — saw Paul Pelosi and the suspect in the entryway, each with a hand on a hammer, Scott said. Officers ordered both men to drop the hammer.
"Mr. DePape immediately pulled the hammer away from Mr. Pelosi and violently attacked him with the hammer," Scott said. "The officers immediately entered, tackled the suspect, disarmed him and took the hammer away from him."
Seconds elapsed between the moment the door opened and the bludgeoning, Scott said Saturday, during a news conference with Mayor London Breed and Jenkins in Chinatown.
Roughly an hour before the Chinatown event, a convoy of black sport utility vehicles pulled into San Francisco General Hospital, where Pelosi is recuperating from emergency surgery.
Speaker Pelosi and her son, Paul Jr., emerged from the vehicles but did not address reporters. Sheriff squad cars surrounded the politician, protecting her from onlookers. Also guarding the hospital were officers from the U.S. Capitol Police force and the SFPD.
Around 2 p.m. Paul Jr. left the hospital, carrying two oranges. A reporter called out to him as he walked through security, asking how his father was doing, and he answered, "So far so good, so far so good." But he did not elaborate further.
A day after the stunning incident, investigators were still piecing together timelines, Scott cautioned. The officers' body cameras documented the encounter, but their footage was not immediately released.
Local politicians are "rattled," the chief said, and some fear they too could be vulnerable.
San Francisco Chronicle SFNext social media editor Audrey Brown contributed to this report.
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