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SAN FRANCISCO — A trail of strained relationships. An itinerant life that included a stint living in a storage unit. A personality that was “consumed by darkness.”
Accounts from people who know the man accused of the break-in and violent attack Friday on Paul Pelosi, the husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, described indications of a troubled individual and growing signs of politically fueled hate.
That man, David DePape, 42, remains in custody and will likely face several charges, including attempted homicide and assault with a deadly weapon, as early as Monday, with an arraignment expected Tuesday, authorities said. The San Francisco district attorney, Brooke Jenkins, said Saturday that DePape had given a statement to the San Francisco Police Department, although she declined to elaborate.
According to law enforcement officials, DePape broke into the Pelosis’ San Francisco home in the early morning hours Friday through a back entrance. He was looking for Nancy Pelosi, who was in Washington, authorities have said, and yelled, “Where is Nancy?” In a struggle with Paul Pelosi, 82, over a hammer, DePape struck Paul Pelosi with it at least once as the police arrived and apprehended him, police said.
At the house, DePape had zip ties, a person with knowledge of the investigation said Sunday.
On Saturday, Nancy Pelosi said in a letter to colleagues that her husband’s condition was continuing to improve and that she thanked them for their support.
“Our children, our grandchildren and I are heartbroken and traumatized by the life-threatening attack on our Pop,” she wrote. “We are grateful for the quick response of law enforcement and emergency services, and for the lifesaving medical care he is receiving.”
Jenkins said that DePape had sustained “minor injuries” and had been treated at a hospital, but it was uncertain Saturday evening whether he was still receiving medical care.
A precise sequence of the break-in is still emerging, and a portrait of DePape is only beginning to take shape. People who have known him at various points in his life reveal a shy person who sought to improve the world but also as someone whose life seemed to drift and whose behavior seemed strange at times, even unhinged.
When Linda Schneider, 65, knew DePape for a couple of years starting in 2009, she was running an urban farm for low-income communities in the East Bay area. DePape would help her with her chickens and occasionally housesit for her, she said.
At the time, DePape was living out of a storage unit in Berkeley and making hemp bracelets, said Schneider, who still lives in California. He had been using hard drugs but was trying to straighten his life, she said. She recalled him as being reliable, easygoing and painfully shy.
“He wouldn’t even have a bank account because he was terrified of talking to a teller,” she said.
By 2012, Schneider said she began receiving “very bizarre” emails from DePape in which he equated himself with Jesus Christ. She felt the messages were “somewhat dangerous,” she said, and she stopped communicating with him.
“This was a guy who didn’t have a lot of internal strength,” she said. “He’d follow anything a little abnormal in front of him.”
Teresa DePape, who is married to Gene DePape, David DePape’s stepfather, first met David DePape when he was in high school in Powell River, British Columbia. Teresa DePape remembered him as a funny teenager who liked to joke and laugh and play computer games. He had some friends, she said, but not a lot.
“He was a good kid,” she said.
David DePape finished high school in Armstrong, another city in British Columbia, but the family had little contact with him after that point, she said.
“We tried to at first,” she said. “But he never responded, so we stopped.”
David DePape left Canada about 20 years ago, in pursuit of a relationship that brought him to California, as reported by CNN.
Law enforcement officials over the weekend were examining what appeared to be DePape’s copious online presence, although they declined to comment publicly on his online accounts.
But a blog written by a user who called himself “daviddepape” contains an array of angry and paranoid postings. The blog’s domain was registered to an address in Richmond, California, in August, and a resident of that town said that DePape lived at that address. From August until the day before the attack on Paul Pelosi, the blog featured a flurry of antisemitic sentiments and concerns about pedophilia, anti-white racism and “elite” control of the internet.
One of the blog posts suggested that there had been no mass gassing of prisoners at Auschwitz, and others were accompanied by malicious and stereotypical images. Another reposted a video lecture defending Adolf Hitler.
In one post, written Oct. 19, the author urged former President Donald Trump to choose Tulsi Gabbard, the former Democratic member of Congress from Hawaii, as his vice-presidential candidate in 2024. Gabbard left the Democratic Party this month and then made several high-profile campaign appearances with Republicans running for office.
“Trump you NEEEEEEEED to make Tulsi your VP in 2024,” the user wrote. “Of the ENTIRE democrat presidential candidates in 2020. She was the only democrat candidate who WASN’T running on a platform of being an insane mentally unwell demagogue.”
But mixed in with those posts were others about religion, the occult and images of fairies that the user said he had produced using an artificial intelligence imaging system.
Several other posts were consumed with culture war issues and seemed to closely track with current events. One post was about the nearly $1 billion defamation judgment entered this month against Alex Jones, the founder of the conspiracy theory-driven media outlet Infowars.
Still, Schneider said that she was stunned and angered when she learned that police had identified DePape as Pelosi’s attacker.
“Who attacks people in their 80s?” she said. “That’s just the epitome of cruelty.”
Inti Gonzalez, who said she considered DePape a father figure because her mother had a relationship with him when she was growing up, said in a blog post on her website and on her Facebook page that DePape was someone who wanted to have his voice heard, “but the monster in him was always too strong for him to be safe to be around.”
On her blog, Gonzalez said that her mother, Oxane “Gypsy” Taub, met DePape when she was pregnant with Gonzalez. Their romantic relationship lasted only a few years, but DePape stayed around longer to take care of Gonzalez and her two younger brothers, until leaving eight years ago, when she was 13, Gonzalez said.
“There is some part of him that is a good person even though he has been very consumed by darkness,” she wrote.
Taub garnered public attention in 2012 when she spoke out against a ban on nudity proposed by Scott Wiener, the San Francisco supervisor, culminating in a 2013 nude wedding at San Francisco City Hall. DePape, a fatherly influence on Taub’s three children, planned to serve as a best man at the wedding, SFGate reported at the time.
A 2015 SF Weekly profile of Taub described her as “a seasoned 9/11 truther, aficionado of psychedelics and sexual free spirit.” In 2021, Taub, 53, was found guilty by a jury of charges including stalking and attempted child abduction. She is incarcerated at the California Institution for Women.
On Friday, Taub’s home in Berkeley, a large Victorian-style duplex, appeared rundown, with abandoned cars in the driveway and stuffed animals hanging in the trees in the front yard. Two teenage boys appeared to live there, one of whom spoke with FBI officials as a crowd of reporters looked on.
A neighbor, Ryan La Coste, 35, said that DePape had been a semi-frequent visitor to the house and continued to stop by after Taub was incarcerated.
“I think he might have been helping out because the kids are still young,” he said.
But mostly, La Coste said, DePape seemed to blend in with the cast of largely transient people who passed through the home.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
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