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Criminal Justice

Who Is Responsible for Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Safety?

Written by Kevin V. NguyenContributors Josh KoehnPublished Oct. 28, 2022 • 3:34pm
A U.S. Capitol Police officer keeps watch as Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) participates in a celebration of the passage of legislation that will place statues of former Supreme Court associate justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sandra Day O’ Connor in the U.S. Capitol on May 12, 2022 in Washington, DC. |Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

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A lone assailant managed to break into the home of the third most powerful person in the United States, attacking her husband with a hammer Friday morning.

San Francisco police said that the motivation for the attack “is still being determined,” but reports say the intruder shouted “Where is Nancy, where is Nancy?” before assaulting Mr. Pelosi. Speaker Pelosi was not at home during the attack. 

The brazen and seemingly easy break-in raises questions about who is responsible for protecting the speaker, who is second-in-line to the presidency after the vice president, and her family. 

“When you are as high profile as Nancy Pelosi is […] her place of abode should constantly be under some form of security,” said former SF Mayor Willie Brown on a local radio show Friday morning. 

“The speaker of the house is not a Secret Service protectee,” said a Secret Service agency spokesperson. The Secret Service is officially charged with protecting the president, vice president, their families, the White House, visiting foreign heads of state, former U.S. presidents, their spouses and events of national significance.

People look in the direction of U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s home (center) on the 2600 block of Broadway in the Pacific Height. | Camille Cohen/The Standard

Chief of communications for the agency, Anthony Guglielmi, confirmed to The Standard that “pending further legal research,” the agency’s scope of protection cannot be extended further than the executive branch—meaning the Pelosis do not qualify for Secret Service protection.

Guglielmi said previous attacks on politicians had ignited calls to expand the Secret Service’s scope, but that it hasn’t changed since. 

He referenced an attack on former Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords, who was shot by a gunman in 2011 along with 18 other people.

He added that although the agency “regularly shares and communicates” threat research with its counterparts, that it cannot comment on other “models of protection.” 

That leaves the protection of members of Congress up to the U.S. Capitol Police, which told The Standard: “For safety reasons, the USCP does not discuss potential security measures for members.”

The Capitol Police has more than 2,300 officers and civilian employees and has an annual budget of approximately $460 million, according to their website.

Paul Pelosi, husband of Nancy Pelosi, was assaulted in the family’s home earlier that day and was taken to a hospital for treatment. | Camille Cohen/The Standard

Of the 500-plus members of Congress in both the House and Senate, only a small number of members in leadership positions actually receive full-time protective details from the Capitol Police. 

USCP also declined to comment on whether that protection extends to the leaders’ families. 

In January, J. Thomas Manger, head of the Capitol Police, told Fox News that the force is “about 400 officers short of where we need to be.” He also blamed the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol for staffing issues. 

In August, members of Congress started receiving up to $10,000 each for home security system equipment and installation. The House sergeant at arms cited a dramatic increase in threats to lawmakers following the Jan. 6 attack for authorizing the new program.

Pelosi’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but has since confirmed her husband’s surgery was a success and he is expected to make a full recovery.

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Pelosi’s home in the wealthy Pacific Heights neighborhood has been the scene of protests and vandalism for years. 

In 2020, salon workers gathered outside of her house in response to a video of the speaker getting her haircut indoors during a time when it was forbidden under city Covid laws.

In 2021, police were called to the home after vandals defaced the garage door and left a dead pig’s head on the driveway. Later that year, two young adults were also arraigned for egging her house.

“I’m sure this [latest] incident is going to amplify the ongoing discussion where public safety is mostly lacking in San Francisco,” said Ross Mirkarimi, a former sheriff and supervisor in San Francisco.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) pauses while speaking during her weekly news conference on Capitol Hill September 22, 2022 in Washington, DC. | Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Mirkarimi, who now works as a consultant on use-of-force investigations in jails, added that Friday morning’s attack will likely result in “risk assessments on somebody as high profile as Nancy Pelosi and her family.”

Mirkarimi added: “Nancy’s been such a lightning rod for the crazies out there, that I think it goes without saying that they have to really be mindful of their security and other elected officials, too.”

Police identified the suspect as 42-year-old David DePape, a Berkeley resident. He has been taken into custody and will be charged with attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon and elder abuse, among other charges, SFPD said.

San Francisco police said that at approximately 2:27 a.m. on Friday morning, officers responded to the 2600 block of Broadway in the Pacific Heights neighborhood for a welfare check. Mr. Pelosi and DePape were observed by SFPD officers in the home, both holding onto a hammer. The suspect pulled the hammer away from Mr. Pelosi and immediately assaulted him with it. Officers then tackled the suspect, SFPD Chief Bill Scott told a press conference.

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Kevin V. Nguyen can be reached at [email protected]


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