JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Relatives of a 20-year-old man accused of trying to steal a Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office cruiser earlier this week told News4Jax on Friday that Nalory Paul is not a criminal but is mentally ill.
Paul is in jail, charged with theft of a motor vehicle after investigators said he jumped into a police cruiser as a JSO officer assisted another officer with a traffic stop at Soutel Drive and Moncrief Road.
That officer chased after Paul and fired a shot from his department-issued handgun, but didn’t hit anything. Paul was taken into custody after crashing the cruiser into some nearby trees.
Paul’s aunt and father told News4Jax he was diagnosed last November with catatonia, which has been associated with schizophrenia. They said in the days leading up to this incident, he had been in the hospital due to his mental health condition.
Photos taken of a younger Nalory Paul offer a glimpse into life before his diagnosis. His family said he graduated from Fletcher High School and described him as kind, reserved, hard-working, and loved by all. His aunt, Angie Paul, is still at a loss for words over his arrest.
"We were all shocked," Angie Paul said. "For me, it was like a dream/nightmare because I knew he wouldn't do it if he was in his right mind."
Angie Paul said due to her nephew’s condition, Nalory Paul lives with his parents and younger brothers. She said they make sure he completes simple daily tasks, like eating and taking a shower. But there are times when his condition causes him to act strangely.
She shared one conversation she had with Paul’s father, who said his son, on at least one occasion, walked from his family’s home in Orange Park to another aunt’s house in San Pablo.
"Does that sound normal to you? No," Angie Paul said. "Until his feet will just peel out, hurt."
Angie Paul said the family has no idea what led Nalory Paul to travel to Northwest Jacksonville. They believe he was driving his sister’s black Honda Civic (pictured below). They said they still don’t know where it ended up.
Their fear is Paul is already being labeled a criminal, with little consideration for his mental illness.
“I know he is not a criminal,” Angie Paul said. “You went through his background and checked. There is no record whatsoever. You can’t search him on social media. There is nothing.”
News4Jax could find no evidence of any prior police interaction with Nalory Paul. Paul’s father, Booz Paul, said his biggest concern is how his son is doing in jail. He said he’s called but isn’t getting answers.
“I ask them, ‘Is he supposed to have his medication?’ They don’t tell me nothing. They don’t tell me nothing at all,” Booz Paul said. “I don’t think he’s getting nothing.”
As the family works through the legal system, they hope people will listen to their story and not rush to judgment.
"This is not Nalory," Angie Paul said. "This is not our nephew. He is not that child."
Nalory Paul is being held on just over $50,000 bond. Jail records show he is due back in court on July 23.