Dad: Son who fought with SEPTA cop should have been committed

Posted: March 21, 2014

PERCY PRIDE'S phone started ringing when the surveillance video hit the TV news Monday night, a video of a big guy brawling with a SEPTA cop on a crowded subway platform.

People thought it was his son, Steve Mason.

Nah, Pride thought, it couldn't be. He looked closer. It was his son, all right - but that didn't seem possible.

Pride said he'd spoken to his son earlier in the day, when Mason, 40, had called from the Warren E. Smith Health Center in North Philly.

Mason needed help. He'd run out of his medication to control bipolar disorder, and his behavior had grown increasingly erratic.

"A therapist there told me that he needed to be [committed], that he was in bad shape," Pride told the Daily News yesterday.

"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," he continued.

"It was devastating to me. I couldn't comprehend it at all."

So, what happened?

Pride said he went to the health center, on Broad Street near Cumberland, and a staffer told him that Philadelphia cops had come to take Mason to a hospital, but had taken the wrong person by mistake.

Mason ended up back on the streets and, eventually, on a subway car on the Broad Street Line, where passengers believed that he had a gun.

He encountered SEPTA police Officer Ron Jones at the Fairmount Avenue stop, where the two men battled violently for five minutes, SEPTA Police Chief Tom Nestel said earlier this week.

Two subway riders ran to Jones' aid when he cried out for help. Nestel said Mason tried to take Jones' gun during the lengthy struggle.

Nestel said yesterday that he was unaware of Pride's account. Philadelphia police spokesman Lt. John Stanford said he also had not heard it. The health-center staffer with whom Pride had met did not return calls for comment.

Pride, 61, said he visited Mason on Tuesday at Hahnemann University Hospital, where he's recovering from head injuries suffered during the subway struggle. No one would listen to his account, he said.

Pride said Mason has struggled with bipolar disorder for years. His last violent episode was in 2011, when he was arrested on aggravated-assault charges.

Court records show that Mason pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 11 1/2 to 23 months in prison and five years' probation supervised by a city Mental Health Court unit.

(Records also show that Mason entered guilty pleas in 1996 to robbery and aggravated-assault charges, and also was found guilty of indecent assault and indecent exposure.)

Pride said a court-ordered case worker visits his son every week at the home they share in North Philly. The case worker is supposed to bring refills of the medications Mason uses - Abilify and Duloxetine - but didn't bring them on his latest visit.

"He didn't have his medication for two weeks, and I noticed his behavior had started to change," Pride said.

"The ball was dropped big time. He was trying to get help. He definitely should not have been back out on the streets."

On Twitter: @dgambacorta

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