A white man from Maryland who told police he traveled to New York to kill black men turned himself in on Wednesday, about 24 hours after he fatally stabbed a man he encountered on the street, officials said.
Authorities described the suspected attacker as someone who had long harbored feelings of hatred toward black men before violently acting on them this week. Police said he carried out the attack in a way that intended to draw attention.
“The reason why he picked New York is ’cause it’s the media capital of the world,” said William Aubry, assistant chief of the New York City Police Department. “And he wanted to make a statement.”
New York police said they charged James Harris Jackson, 28, with murder. Police said Jackson encountered 66-year-old Timothy Caughman shortly after 11 p.m. on Monday and stabbed him multiple times. Caughman went to a police precinct for help and was brought to Bellevue Hospital, where he died, police said.
Early Wednesday morning, a little more than 24 hours after the attack, Jackson walked into the police substation in Times Square and announced that he was wanted for murder.
“‘I’m the person you’re looking for,'” Jackson told the patrol officers there, Aubry said at a briefing later Wednesday.
Jackson also told them he had knives in his pockets, and police searched him and took him into custody, Aubry said. Police recovered what Aubry called a 26-inch “black mini-sword,” which he said police believe is the weapon used to stab Caughman in the back.
The attack is “extremely distressing,” James P. O’Neill, the New York City police commissioner, said at the same briefing.
Police gave few details of Jackson’s background on Wednesday, identifying him only as a Baltimore resident and military veteran. Jackson was in the Army for more than three years, deploying to Afghanistan between December 2010 and November 2011, according to Lt. Col. Jennifer Johnson, an Army spokesperson. His service record did not include any badges reflecting combat interaction with any enemy during that time. Jackson served as a military intelligence analyst and left the service in August 2012 with the rank of specialist.
Jackson’s arraigned was still pending Thursday afternoon, and it was not immediately clear from court dockets whether he had an attorney.
Baltimore police said they do not have records of any interactions with Jackson, and his name did not appear in a search of Maryland court records. Authorities also said that Jackson traveled to New York from Baltimore on a Bolt Bus on Friday, staying at a hotel in midtown until Monday afternoon, at which point “he proceeded to wander through the city,” Aubry said.
Aubry said the initial investigation gave detectives little question about what prompted the stabbing.
“Based on statements that he made as well as a preliminary review of video, it reveals that the attack on Timothy Caughman was clearly racially motivated,” he said. Aubry went on to say that Jackson “was specifically intending to target male blacks for assault.”
While Aubry did not elaborate on what Jackson said to police about what motivated the stabbing, he did say that Jackson “has been harboring these types of feelings for quite some time,” adding: “It’s well over 10 years that he’s been harboring these feelings of hate towards male blacks.”
Public officials decried the stabbing as an act of racial hatred. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) issued a statement calling the attack “more than an unspeakable human tragedy” and an assault on the city’s “inclusiveness and our diversity.”
“Now it’s our collective responsibility to speak clearly and forcefully in the face of intolerance and violence — here or across the country,” he said. “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.”
Melissa Mark-Viverito (D), speaker of the New York City Council, called Jackson a white supremacist. She also tied the attack to a recent spike in reports of hate crimes both in the city and nationwide and invoked the election of President Trump, saying in a statement that the attack highlighted a growing divide that he “has only made worse.”
In a statement Thursday, New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) said he was appalled by the stabbing and said his administration had “zero tolerance for hate crimes of any kind.”
“We will not allow the forces of racism and hate to intimidate or divide us,” Cuomo said. “Let me be very clear: This disturbing act of violence goes against everything New York stands for. Not only must we repudiate this attack, but we must continue to deny that the ideas behind this cowardly crime have any place in democratic society.”
Officials say they are looking into Jackson’s background, relatives and his social media history, and detectives traveled to Maryland to speak with people there. Police said they have not found many interactions with law enforcement. New York police are working with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office to see if they can upgrade the charges against Jackson to include that it was motivated by hate or racism, Aubry said.
Jackson “was very forthcoming” with detectives and “knew what he was doing when he came up here,” Aubry said.
Aubry said the stabbing appeared to be random, saying that Caughman “happened to be going through garbage on the sidewalk, and he happened to be the unfortunate one” who Jackson encountered.
Julie Tate and Dan Lamothe contributed to this report, which was first published on Wednesday at 6:21 p.m. and updated Thursday with details about the arraignment.