James Edward Paulk, the 26-year-old man charged with randomly assaulting Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Kevin Dougherty near City Hall on Friday night, has struggled with schizophrenia for about six years, his mother said.
"He's been in and out of any institution you can name in the city," Delores Paulk, 65, said Saturday, tearing up on the porch of her East Germantown home. "Every time he gets out, we take him home and try to help him. It doesn't get better."
She said her son did not have a history of violence and she didn't know what happened to cause Friday's outbursts, in which Philadelphia police say James Paulk punched a man on the subway and later assaulted Dougherty on the street as he was walking with his family.
Dougherty was treated for a possible concussion at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and released. He is doing fine, according to police and sources close to the family.
Paulk was arrested shortly after the attack, and arraigned Saturday on two counts each of simple assault and recklessly endangering another person. Bail was set at $200,000.
Paulk has struggled with mental health problems since age 19 or 20 and is a diagnosed schizophrenic, his mother said, but medications he has tried "make him feel like a zombie and take his soul." So he's been living on the streets.
Between 2009 and January 2016, court documents for Paulk show at least nine arrests for offenses including driving under the influence, theft, disorderly conduct, public drunkenness, and simple assault.
The last time Delores Paulk saw her son was a few weeks ago, she said, when he was hospitalized for an allergic reaction. Doctors there said they would try to get him more help, but after he was treated, he returned to the streets.
On Friday, police said, Paulk first punched a 43-year-old man on the Broad Street Line about 5 p.m.
The man, whom police did not identify, said he had noticed Paulk standing at the opposite doors talking to himself. As the train approached the City Hall station, Paulk walked up and punched the man on the left side of his neck, then ran off the train, police said.
Then, about 6 p.m., Dougherty and two other people were walking across 15th Street toward City Hall when they saw Paulk panhandling in the street, police said. Paulk went up to them, blocked their path, and asked them for money.
When Dougherty said no, Paulk "swung his arm" and hit Dougherty on the right side of his face, police said, then fled into the subway.
SEPTA Police Chief Thomas J. Nestel III said the agency had officers "all along the line checking trains" and quickly found the suspect at the Girard Avenue station.
Dougherty and the 43-year-old victim were both taken to Broad Street and Girard Avenue, where they identified Paulk as the man who attacked them, police said.
Nestel said the attack appeared to be another in a "very strange flurry of mental health-related incidents" across the city in recent weeks.
Leaning on the wrought-iron railing of her East Germantown home Saturday, Delores Paulk choked up with frustration that neither she nor the mental health system had been able to help her son. She said her family has considered moving to a different state for care, but didn't know where it would be better.
"We haven't found the help that works," she said. Sometimes, "he reaches out and he begs for help. There doesn't seem to be any. There doesn't seem to be the help he needs."