Edward Archer had been "hearing voices in his head," his mother said, and relatives had pressed him to seek psychiatric help.
But "I never expected him to do anything like this," Valerie Holliday said Friday.
According to police, on Thursday night, Archer, 30, saying he was "acting in the name of Islam," opened fire on a Philadelphia police cruiser, seriously wounding an officer.
"He's been acting kind of strange lately," Holliday said at her twin home in Yeadon, Delaware County.
She described her son, the oldest of seven children, as a longtime devout Muslim. "He turns to his God a lot," she said. In surveillance video. the shooter in the attack is wearing a long white robe over dark pants, but police said it was unclear whether they constituted Muslim garb.
Doug Dolfman, a lawyer who represented Archer in bail hearings in a Philadelphia assault case, said Holliday had told him that her son traveled to Egypt sometime in 2012, but Dolfman said he did not know why he went there.
Holliday downplayed any connection between Archer's religious beliefs and his alleged behavior Thursday night.
She said that Archer had suffered head injuries while playing football for Penn Wood High School and in a moped accident several years ago.
"He's been getting worse," she said. "He's been talking to himself . . . laughing and mumbling." She said he thought he was being targeted by police.
According to court records, he was scheduled to be sentenced Monday in a Delaware County traffic-accident case. He was found guilty in a November nonjury trial of forging documents, careless driving, driving with a suspended or revoked license, and related offenses.
Judge Richard Cappelli recalled that Archer defended himself. "He didn't want the public defender," Cappelli added, because Archer said that the public defender didn't believe his story.
In Philadelphia, he pleaded guilty to simple assault and a gun charge in March, and was sentenced the same day to nine to 23 months in jail and two years probation. He was immediately paroled.
According to court files, on Jan. 31, 2012, Archer had threatened another man with a gun at a house on Alden Street, near 57th and Spruce Streets, in West Philadelphia, then briefly chased the victim outside.
The victim, Roy Walker, told police that about 4:10 p.m. that day, his girlfriend's father, James Atkinson, had come to the house and quarreled with him about his relationship with his daughter.
Walker said Atkinson then pushed him out the door, and he then saw two men he didn't know get out of a parked gold Jeep Cherokee. One of the men - Archer - who had a long beard and skull cap, pulled out a small black-and-silver handgun and pointed it at Walker's stomach while grabbing his shirt, Walker told police. Walker said he broke free and ran, and Archer briefly chased him, but then left in another direction.
Dolfman noted in a court motion that Archer worked in Philadelphia as a security guard, attended Cheyney University, and had lifelong ties to Philadelphia.
Referring to the Thursday night incident, Archer's mother said, "I never expected him to do anything like this."
She said that her son, who lives with his girlfriend nearby, had stopped by the house Thursday morning, and had wheat toast and sausage.
She said she did not know how her son might have obtained a gun.
For the wounded officer, she said, "I just hope he's OK. I wish them well."
As for her son, "I'm still hoping they have the wrong child."