State Supreme Court Justice Kevin Dougherty and a SEPTA rider were separately assaulted in Center City on Friday night by a 26-year-old panhandler.
Officer Tanya Little, a Philadelphia Police Department spokeswoman, said a 43-year-old man was riding southbound on SEPTA’s Broad Street Line about 5 p.m. when he noticed James Edward Paulk standing across from him and talking to himself.
As the subway neared SEPTA’s City Hall station, Paulk allegedly walked over to the commuter, punched him on the left side of his neck, and ran off the train.
About an hour later, Dougherty, the brother of electricians union leader John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty, was walking with his family near 15th and Market streets when they spotted Paulk panhandling in the street, Little said.
Paulk allegedly approached Dougherty, blocked his path, and asked the justice if he had any money. When Dougherty said he didn’t, Paulk punched Dougherty in the face, Little said.
Paulk bolted towards the nearby subway entrance as Dougherty’s relatives flagged down Philadelphia police officers for help. SEPTA Police Chief Tom Nestel said transit police officers responded to Philly cops’ description of Paulk — in particular, the fact that he was wearing a dirty green t-shirt — and began searching video feeds and local subway stops.
“We didn’t know who the victim was,” Nestel said, “but anytime a suspect flees into the subway, we alert officers downstream because a suspect can be across town in 12 minutes.”
Nestel said a SEPTA cop — whose last name, ironically, is Dougherty — apprehended Paulk at the Girard Avenue station on the Broad Street Line. Both Kevin Dougherty and the SEPTA rider who was assaulted earlier in the evening positively identified Paulk as their attacker.
Dougherty was taken to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and treated for a possible concussion.
Paulk, who has an address on Ross Street near East Walnut Lane, has been charged with simple assault and recklessly endangering another person. Nestel said Paulk had 22 prior contacts with Transit Police during the last three years, all for summary offenses.
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