The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Fatal stabbing in New York was ‘practice’ for more attacks on black men, police say

Surveillance footage allegedly shows a man New York City police say is accused of a stabbing attack on a black man. (Video: New York Police Department)
Placeholder while article actions load

A day after police say a white man admitted to fatally stabbing a black man in New York City and intending to kill many more, authorities charged him Thursday with murder as a hate crime, even as prosecutors were also urged to pursue federal charges.

Police say James H. Jackson, 28, of Baltimore told detectives that he traveled to New York from Maryland on a bus last week “for the purpose of killing black men,” according to a complaint filed in New York Criminal Court.

The complaint elaborates on what the New York Police Department had said Wednesday, when they described Jackson as violently acting out on what Assistant Police Chief William Aubry described as long-standing “feelings of hate towards male blacks.”

White man traveled to New York to kill black men and ‘make a statement,’ police say

Jackson was arrested early Wednesday after he walked into a police substation and told officers, “I’m the person you’re looking for,” Aubry said. He was charged with killing Timothy Caughman, 66, who was stabbed Monday night.

In the complaint filed Thursday, police are quoted as saying that Jackson admitted to targeting Caughman specifically because he was black. Police said Jackson selected Caughman essentially at random after finding him on the street and said that Jackson “had stalked numerous potential victims” during his time in New York.

While police had initially not revealed what Jackson said motivated his racial animus, the complaint states that Jackson “was angered by black men mixing with white women.”

Police had also said that Jackson came to New York specifically so that the attacks would garner attention. Aubry said that Jackson “picked New York [because] it’s the media capital of the world,” adding: “And he wanted to make a statement.”

FBI investigating Kansas shooting of Indian men as a hate crime

As part of that, police say, Jackson also had a very high-profile location in mind. Caughman’s stabbing, not far from the tourist-filled Times Square area, was intended to be only the first in a series of violent acts, the complaint states.

“Jackson regarded the killing as practice prior to going to Times Square to kill additional black men,” the complaint states.

As more details emerged in court, a prominent civil rights group called Thursday for federal hate crime charges in this case. In a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP’s Legal Defense and Educational Fund, also said the stabbing should be investigated as a potential act of terrorism.

Ifill also described recent deadly incidents, including the shooting of two Indian men in Kansas, as well as a recent increase in reports of hate groups as part of what she called “a significant uptick in hate-related activities” since President Trump began running for office. The attacker in Kansas is reported to have told the two Indian men to “get out of my country” before opening fire; the FBI is investigating it as a hate crime.

“We encourage you to speak clearly and forcefully against hate crimes, and to use the full powers of your office to confront and prosecute violent white supremacist acts against innocent Americans,” Ifill wrote to Sessions.

A Justice Department spokesman said that the department “has received the letter and is reviewing it.”

Southern Poverty Law Center says American hate groups are on the rise

Officials in New York have widely condemned the deadly stabbing. James P. O’Neill, the New York City police commissioner, called it “extremely distressing.” New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D), in a statement Thursday, said the “disturbing act of violence goes against everything New York stands for.”

After his arraignment Thursday, Jackson remained in custody. Sam Talkin, an attorney representing him, said in court that if the allegations are true, “then we’re going to address the obvious psychological issues that are present in this case,” according to the Associated Press. Talkin declined to comment further after the arraignment.

Jackson’s background had not fully come into view Thursday. The Army said he served for more than three years, deploying to Afghanistan for nearly a year, before leaving the service in August 2012 with the rank of specialist. Police in Baltimore said they had no records of interactions with Jackson, and he did not appear in any Maryland court records.

The complaint states that Jackson traveled to New York with a sword and two knives. After “repeatedly” stabbing Caughman, Jackson put the sword into a trash can at Washington Square Park, officials say. Police said the knives were on him when he was taken into custody, while the sword was later found in the park.

In Kansas attack, gunman yelled ‘Get out of my country,’ witnesses say

A person who said they witnessed the attack is quoted in the complaint as saying they apparently saw part of the violent encounter, describing a white man on top of a black man who was asking what the white man was doing. The white man is then described as getting up and leaving, while the black man is also seen walking with blood on his chest.

Caughman went to a police station after the attack and was brought to Bellevue Hospital, where he died, police said. According to the complaint, he was stabbed in the back, face and hand, and the medical examiner’s office said an autopsy concluded that he died of internal bleeding caused by cuts to several organs, including one of his lungs.

After Jackson went to a police substation to turn himself in, officials say, he told a detective he had recognized his own photo in a still video image published in an article about Caughman’s killing.

Further reading:

NYPD says Trump’s budget would gut New York’s counterterrorism efforts, make the city less safe