A white U.S. Army veteran from Baltimore bent on making a racist attack took a bus to New York, the “media capital of the world,” randomly picked out a black man who was collecting bottles on the street and killed him with a sword, police said Wednesday.
James Harris Jackson turned himself in at a Times Square police station early Wednesday, about 25 hours after Timothy Caughman staggered into a police precinct bleeding to death.
“I’m the person that you’re looking for,” Jackson told police, according to Assistant Chief William Aubrey.
Jackson, who was arrested on suspicion of murder, told police he’d harbored feelings of hatred toward black men for at least 10 years, authorities said. He traveled to New York on March 17 and had been staying in a Manhattan hotel.
“The reason he picked New York is because it’s the media capital of the world and he wanted to make a statement,” Aubrey said.
Jackson was wandering the streets in a long overcoat concealing a 26-inch sword when he encountered Caughman, who was collecting bottles from trash cans, police said. Jackson stabbed him repeatedly in his chest and back, they said.
Caughman, who was 66 years old and lived nearby in a transitional house, was taken to a hospital by police shortly after he arrived to the station house. He died at the hospital. According to his Twitter page, he was an autograph collector and a music and movie lover who tweeted about John Lennon, Chuck Berry and the best St. Patrick’s Day writing. He said he’d like to visit California someday.
After the attack, Jackson, who’s 28, went to the bathroom of a nearby restaurant and washed off the blood from the killing, authorities said.
Investigators said they believed Jackson was considering other attacks but surrendered after noticing his photo in media reports. He had two knives and told investigators where they could find the sword, police said. The sword was retrieved from a trash can not far from the scene.
Video surveillance captured Jackson in the days leading up to the attack, and investigators said he had walked purposefully toward a black man but didn’t attack him.
Jackson was expected to appear in court later Wednesday. It was unclear when he might get a lawyer who could comment on his case. He said nothing to reporters as he was led from a police station. A call to his family’s home phone rang unanswered.
A former neighbor who tangled with Jackson over an apartment in Baltimore recalled him as “a piece of work” who fell months behind on rent.
“He’s just one of those people that you wish you never met,” said Marcus Dagan, who had been informally managing the building on behalf of its then-owner and took Jackson to court over the rent.
Dagan said Jackson moved out in 2015 without paying.
When Jackson moved in in 2014, he indicated he was a military veteran and was in college, studying toward becoming a lawyer, Dagan said. Jackson left behind a collection of war movies in the apartment, the former neighbor said.
Jackson was in the Army from March 2009 to August 2012 and worked as a military intelligence analyst, the Army said. Deployed in Afghanistan from December 2010 to November 2011, he earned several medals and attained the rank of specialist.
The circumstances of his discharge are unclear; the Army cites privacy laws that prevent releasing such details.
Bias attacks have more than doubled this year in New York, and there have been nine bias crimes against black people reported, up from five in the same time period last year.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said the sword killing was “an assault” on the city’s inclusiveness and diversity. The Democrat called it “an unspeakable human tragedy” and urged city residents to “speak clearly and forcefully in the face of intolerance and violence.”
Associated Press writer Kasey Jones in Baltimore contributed to this report.