PHILADELPHIA - The father of the man arrested Monday for fighting a Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority (SEPTA) officer on a crowded subway platform told the Philadelphia Daily News that his son is mentally ill and did not receive the medication that he needed.
Steve Mason, 40, was identified by the paper as the man responsible for fighting with transit officer Ronald Jones, but the attacker's dad says it wasn't his son's fault. Percy Pride, 61, told the Daily News on Tuesday that his son has suffered for years with bipolar disorder.
Pride told the paper that Mason had called him from the Warren E. Smith Health Center in North Philly earlier in the day. Pride said his son, who lives with him in North Philly, had run out of his medication and that he needed help. His behavior was growing more and more erratic, according to his father.
"A therapist [at the health center] told me that he needed to be [committed], that he was in bad shape," Pride told the paper. "I expected her to call back to let me know which hospital he'd been taken to, but then I got a call from my other son, telling me about the video.... It was devastating to me. I couldn't comprehend it at all."
Pride told the Daily News that he went to the health center, where a staffer told him that police had come to take Mason to a hospital but had accidentally taken the wrong person.
Instead of going to the hospital, Mason wound up on a subway car, where he alarmed passengers who believed he had a gun. He got into the altercation with Jones at the train's Fairmount Avenue stop, and was apprehended after a violent struggle.
SEPTA Police Chief Tom Nestel told the paper that he was unaware of Pride's account of the events. Philadelphia police spokesman Lt. John Stanford also said he had not heard it. The Daily News' calls to the Warren E. Smith Health Center went unreturned, according to the paper.
Pride told the Daily News that Mason was arrested on aggravated-assault charges for a violent episode in 2011. Court records show Mason was sentenced to up to 23 months in prison and five years' probation supervised by a city Mental Health Court unit. In 1996, pleaded guilty to robbery and aggravated-assault charges and was found guilty of indecent assault and indecent exposure.
Pride, who says a court-ordered case worker visits his son every week, told the paper that Mason was not given a refill on his medications - Abilify and Duloxetine - but did not offer a reason as to why.
"The ball was dropped big time. He was trying to get help," Pride told the Daily News. "He definitely should not have been back out on the streets."