Pelosi Home Invasion: Security Take-Aways
By TorchStone VP, Scott Stewart
At around 2:00 am on the morning of Oct. 28, a man wearing a large black backpack lumbered through the upscale San Francisco neighborhood.
When he reached the home of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, he walked around to the back of the house and attempted to open the three sets of French doors that led to the backyard.
Finding the doors locked, he removed a hammer from his backpack and began to strike the windows of one of the center pair of doors.
The glass was thick and laminated, it took the man several minutes, and many hammer blows to smash a hole through the windows large enough for him to crawl through.
Once through the doors, the man proceeded to roam the house in search of his intended target—Nancy Pelosi.
Instead, when he entered the home’s master suite, he found Pelosi’s 82-year-old husband in bed alone.
The intruder, still carrying his hammer, rousted Pelosi and demanded to know where his wife was.
Mr. Pelosi replied that she was not home and attempted to leave the bedroom but was stopped by the hammer-wielding intruder.
Under the guise of using the bathroom, Mr. Pelosi was able to place a call to 911.
The intruder reportedly caught him doing so and smashed the phone.
It is noteworthy that the intruder did not attempt to flee after the call to police.
Mentally unbalanced individuals are often indifferent to the consequences of their actions, are not concerned about escaping, and are therefore often undeterred by security measures.
When the officers responded to the residence, Mr. Pelosi attempted to wrest the hammer from the intruder but was struck in the head and seriously injured.
Mr. Pelosi was hospitalized but is recovering from his ordeal and was released from the hospital on Nov. 4.
This incident was traumatic—and very nearly fatal.
It was also, however, preventable.
There are several important lessons that security teams can glean from this case.
The Attack Cycle
This incident serves as a good reminder that assailants will not always have well-conceived, professional attack plans.
In this case, the attacker failed even to determine if Speaker Pelosi was home before breaking into the house.
He does appear to have proceeded directly to the doors at the rear of the residence and, therefore, likely conducted some limited surveillance of the house.
However, the fact that he did not realize Speaker Pelosi was normally accompanied by a protective detail and that there would have been armed officers at her home if she was in residence indicates he did not do targeted surveillance on the Speaker herself.
Despite having only a half-baked plan, the attacker was still able to break into the home of the Speaker of the House of Representatives and seriously assault her husband.
This is a reminder that even amateur attackers can be dangerous, and these dangers may not only impact the high-profile person being targeted.
Another example of this was the armed man who conducted a home invasion at the Colorado vacation residence of Michael Bloomberg.
When the assailant discovered Bloomberg and his family were not home, he kidnapped their housekeeper instead.
Pelosi’s attacker’s pathway to violence should also be fascinating to study.
It will be interesting to watch the court proceedings for more details of how he cased the residence prior to the attack.
It will also be interesting to see if he was of prior record with the Capitol Police Threat Assessment Section for making threats to the Speaker or if he was otherwise off record with them.
No matter how much effort is put into attempting to obfuscate the ownership of a residence by a high-profile individual, it is generally impossible to completely hide their connection to it.
There are normally mentions in the press or on social media, and in most communities, there is gossip about a celebrity or public figure residing in the neighborhood.
Along with the office, a person’s residence is one of the most predictable locations to find them.
Because of this, residential security is a vital component of executive protection and one that, unfortunately, is often neglected, as it was in this case.
To understand more about this incident, let us view the Pelosi home security through the lens of layers of residential security.
Layer 1 – The Neighborhood
The criminal complaint filed in this case notes that after the attack, San Francisco Police interviewed a witness who saw a man dressed all in black and carrying a black backpack near the Pelosi residence.
The witness was reportedly a private security officer working at a nearby residence.
The security officer told police he heard the sound of breaking glass shortly after seeing the suspicious man with the backpack.
The attack could have been thwarted, or at the very least, responded to far more quickly, had the security officer called the police.
Someone in the first ring of defense detected the attacker but then failed to do anything about it.
The first ring of security failed.
The addition of an overt or covert residential security detail could have prevented this attack.
Layers 2 and 3 – Property Line and Yard
There was no fence to prevent the attacker from crossing the property line and getting into the yard or to even deter or delay him from doing so.
He was able to simply follow the sidewalk around the residence to the back doors.
There also does not appear to have been any sort of intrusion detection system in the yard or motion-activated security lighting around the house.
There was security camera coverage of the residence, but if the unprofessional attacker even noticed the cameras, they did not deter him.
As in so many other cases, the camera system at the Pelosi residence did nothing to deter the attacker or allow someone to detect him and call the police.
The cameras will prove more valuable as an investigative and prosecutorial tool than they did as a preventative one.
In the end, nothing served to deny, detect, delay, or deter the attacker in the second and third rings of defense.
These layers of security also failed—he walked right up the back doors.
An anti-climb fence equipped with sensors to detect if someone attempts to scale or cut the fence could have provided some delay, deter, or detect the intruder, as would the installation of an intruder detection system between the fence and the residence.
The activation of motion-detected exterior security lighting may also have scared him away.
Layer 4 – Structure of the Residence
In many recent home invasion robberies in Los Angeles, thieves have used a rock, brick, or spring-loaded glass punch to shatter glass doors and gain entrance to the targeted residence.
From photos of the back doors of the Pelosi residence, it is clear that the French doors on the back of the residence that were breached were either constructed using laminated glass or had significant laminate film added to them.
It also appears that the intruder made a hole big enough to crawl through, indicating that the locks on the doors prevented him from simply reaching through and opening the door once a small hole had been made.
This implies that sustained pounding with a hammer would have been required to make a hole that large through the glass and film.
Security layer 4 thus did provide some delay and produced a considerable amount of noise—noise, as we previously noted, was heard by the security guard at another residence in the neighborhood.
Unfortunately, the noise was apparently not loud enough to wake Mr. Pelosi and allow him to dash to the safe haven in the residence; that is, assuming the Pelosi residence has one, as all high-profile homes should.
It would also appear that either the Pelosi’s residential security alarm was not activated in “home” mode, or it was and does not have a glass break sensor.
Since the attacker crawled through a hole in the window, he would not have tripped the door sensor on the alarm system.
It would also appear that there was not a concealed panic alarm button within reach of Mr. Pelosi’s bed or in the bathroom.
Layer 4 was a partial success; it provided a delay, but did not warn Mr. Pelosi of the intruder until the attacker made it into the master suite.
It is not known if the master suite has a robust door that could have been locked to provide an additional delay and warning, but it appears that the attacker was able to gain entry without waking Mr. Pelosi, indicating the door was not locked.
Use the alarm system when sleeping at home.
Have a glass break sensor installed on the alarm system and active while in home mode.
Sleep with the master suite door locked.
Layer 5 – Safe Haven
Mr. Pelosi was not able to make it to the safe haven due to failures in the other security rings, so we are unable to assess the effectiveness of this ring.
The cell phone charging in the bathroom could indicate that it was intended to serve as a safe haven, but if so, it appears Mr. Pelosi was unable to close and secure the door.
The Pelosi’s may have considered the Speaker’s detail to be enough of an augmentation to their residential security, so other security upgrades were thought unnecessary.
The problem with that logic is that the detail was not there when the speaker was away, leaving her husband vulnerable.
Had a security team been present, the layers of security still did not account for a significant attack or the possibility protection maybe neutralized.
With or without an executive protection detail, high-profile individuals should not neglect residential security and should ensure that all the rings are as robust as practicable.