A white military veteran from Maryland who police said traveled to New York City to target black men was charged Wednesday in the stabbing death earlier this week of an elderly African-American man as he rummaged through trash bins.
James Harris Jackson, 28, walked into an NYPD substation at Times Square and surrendered to police early Wednesday, telling the officers “I am the person you are looking for,” said Assistant Police Chief William Aubry, head of detectives for Manhattan South.
When Jackson turned himself in, Aubry said, officers discovered a 26-inch sword tucked inside his coat. Investigators believe Jackson used the sword just before midnight Monday to repeatedly stab Timothy Caughman, 66, in the vicinity of West 35th Street in Manhattan.
Caughman had been residing in a single room occupancy hotel, officials said. Despite his wounds, Caughman managed to walk into the Midtown South Precinct station house. Caughman was taken to Bellevue Hospital Center where he was pronounced dead, according to officials.
Asked why Jackson would stage an attack in the city, Aubry answered that “it is the media capital of the world and he wanted to make a statement.”
Jackson was slated to appear in Manhattan criminal court late Wednesday or possibly Thursday.
In a statement released late Wednesday afternoon, Mayor Bill de Blasio called the killing “an unspeakable human tragedy” but also “an assault on what makes this the greatest city in the world: our inclusiveness and our diversity. . . . We are a safe city because we are inclusive. We are a nation of unrivaled strength because we are diverse. No act of violence can undermine who we are.”
Aubry said Jackson is believed to have arrived in New York City on Friday. He checked into a Manhattan hotel for about three nights, Aubry said. After his arrest, Jackson gave statements to detectives indicating the fatal stabbing of Caughman was “clearly racially motivated,” Aubry told reporters during a briefing Wednesday afternoon.
Interviews with Jackson and other evidence revealed that he had harbored feelings of racially animosity toward black men for “well over 10 years,” Aubry said. Prosecutors were reviewing the case to possibly upgrade the charges to hate crime status, according to the assistant police chief.
Jackson’s arrest on second-degree murder charges came hours before the NYPD released new data showing that city hate crimes have spiked by more than 100 percent so far in 2017 compared to the same period last year.
As of March 19, the city had recorded 122 hate crimes, compared to 59 last year. There have been 72 anti-Semitic incidents in 2017, compared to 26 in 2016.
NYPD detectives traveled to Maryland Wednesday to talk with Jackson’s friends and relatives. Aubry said Jackson apparently served in the military in Afghanistan, although he didn’t provide details of the Maryland man’s deployment. Jackson also seemed to have no criminal record of any consequence, Aubry added.
Police said Jackson was seen on a surveillance video running along the street in Manhattan after the attack, holding an object in his right hand. Aubry credited public dissemination of that video with prompting Jackson to surrender.