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CAPE FEAR MEMORIAL BRIDGE CLOSURE: UPDATES, RESOURCES, AND CONTEXT

A San Francisco judge released footage of the attack on Paul Pelosi

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

A California court yesterday released video of a man last October attacking Paul Pelosi, spouse of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Extremism experts report the footage could be used as propaganda for right-wing radicals. From member station KQED in San Francisco, Marisa Lagos reports.

MARISA LAGOS, BYLINE: The most graphic footage comes from a body camera worn by one of the police officers who responded to a 911 call from the Pelosi's San Francisco home. The video shows Paul Pelosi and David DePape holding a hammer, then DePape yanking it away and hitting Pelosi on the head.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER #1: Drop the hammer.

DAVID DEPAPE: Nope.

PAUL PELOSI: Hey. Hey, hey, hey.

LAGOS: In a taped interview with police investigators also released by the court, DePape says he went to the house because Nancy Pelosi is a liar and that the entire Democratic Party has been on a crime spree.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DEPAPE: Well, I was going to basically hold her hostage, and I was going to talk to her and basically tell her what I’d do.

UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER #2: Hold her hostage and do what?

DEPAPE: And talk to her. And if she told the truth, I'd let her go scot free.

LAGOS: But, DePape said, if Pelosi lied, he was going to, quote, "kneecap her." Speaking at the U.S. Capitol Friday, Nancy Pelosi said her husband is making progress recovering from his fractured skull. But healing will, quote, "take time."

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

NANCY PELOSI: I have not heard the 911 call. I have not heard the confession. I have not seen the break-in. And I have absolutely no intention of seeing the deadly assault on my husband's life.

LAGOS: The audio and video are among the evidence being used to prosecute DePape on state charges, including attempted murder. It was released over the objections of both prosecutors and defense attorneys after media outlets, including KQED, filed a motion with the court. DePape's lawyers argued it could be used to foment conspiracy theories about the attack, which spread quickly on right-wing media last fall.

JON LEWIS: This just becomes fodder.

LAGOS: Jon Lewis is a research fellow with the Program on Extremism at George Washington University. He says that's exactly what happened within hours of the release Friday.

LEWIS: It's something that gets circulated around these online spaces, becomes almost a meme. It gets built into the propaganda and mythology of right-wing extremists.

LAGOS: Lewis says some have taken to broadcasting their horrific attacks in real time for that exact reason. And he drew a parallel between the attack on Paul Pelosi, the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol and other right-wing violence, like the racist, deadly shooting at a Buffalo, N.Y., grocery store last year.

For NPR News, I'm Marisa Lagos in San Francisco.

(SOUNDBITE OF PURE X SONG, "PLEASURE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Marisa Lagos