Suspect in Manhattan Killing Hated Black Men, Police Say
James Harris Jackson, 28, an Army veteran from Baltimore claimed responsibility for using a sword to fatally stab a black man, the police say.
An Army veteran with a long-simmering hatred of black men claimed responsibility on Wednesday for using a sword to fatally stab a homeless man in Manhattan this week, the police said, calling the attack random and racially motivated.
The suspect, James Harris Jackson, 28, of Baltimore, surrendered to the police shortly after midnight on Wednesday, a day after the victim, Timothy Caughman, 66, stumbled into a police station bleeding from stab wounds to his chest and back, Assistant Chief William Aubry, the commander of Manhattan South detectives, told reporters at Police Headquarters. The police arrested him on a charge of second-degree murder, but the chief said they wanted to upgrade the charge by classifying it a hate crime.
“I’m the person you’re looking for,” Chief Aubry said Mr. Jackson told police officers when he walked into the police substation in Times Square. He had recognized himself in an image from a security camera broadcast on the news Tuesday evening, the chief said.
Mr. Jackson told the police that he had chosen New York City to make a statement by attacking black men. He told investigators where he discarded the murder weapon, a 26-inch sword with an 18-inch blade, and told them he was carrying knives in his pocket. Chief Aubry said the police had collected video evidence that seemed to corroborate Mr. Jackson’s account of the evening.
“He was very forthcoming with us,” Chief Aubry said. “He knew what he was doing when he was coming up here, and he relayed all of that information to us.”
The attack on Mr. Caughman, who was black, came as cities across the country, especially New York City, are experiencing a rise in hate crimes since the presidential election. Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has condemned the attacks, denounced the killing, which he said appeared to be based solely on Mr. Caughman’s race.
“More than an unspeakable human tragedy, this is an assault on what makes this the greatest city in the world: our inclusiveness and our diversity,” he said.
The victim, who lived in a homeless shelter on West 36th Street, and was an avid recycler, according to his Twitter profile, had been sifting through the trash around the corner on 9th Avenue, in front of a row of restaurants, when he was accosted by a man in a dark coat around 11:15 p.m. on Monday, the police said. The assailant argued with Mr. Caughman before stabbing the victim, according to the police, who declined to say what words they exchanged. After the attack, Mr. Jackson, the police said, threw the sword in a nearby garbage can and went into a restaurant restroom to wash the blood off.
Mr. Caughman walked two blocks to the Midtown South Precinct, where he arrived about 10 minutes after the attack. Officers summoned an ambulance to take him to Bellevue Hospital where Mr. Caughman was later pronounced dead.
The police on Tuesday released an image of the suspect wearing a black coat and walking away from the scene of the stabbing. Around 12:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Mr. Jackson had turned himself in.
Mr. Jackson was handcuffed and dressed in a Tyvek suit to protect evidence on his body when investigators escorted him out of the Midtown South Precinct on Wednesday afternoon. He appeared subdued as he was taken to his arraignment in criminal court in Manhattan, which was not expected to take place until later in the day.
The police found two knives in Mr. Jackson’s coat, and later recovered the sword he said he used to kill Mr. Caughman, Chief Aubry said. Investigators were also seeking a warrant to search his cellphone and laptop. Mr. Jackson had a manifesto explaining his desire and plans that he had wanted to deliver to The New York Times, according to a person briefed on the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity as the investigation is continuing.
Mr. Jackson harbored a hatred of black men for more than a decade and came to New York last weekend to attack them, Chief Aubry said.
Officials did not say if they knew what had triggered his animosity. Investigators were beginning to plumb his background, including any criminal history or mental health issues, the chief said.
Mr. Jackson returned from a deployment to Afghanistan in 2011 and was stationed in Germany before he was discharged, according to information posted on his father’s Facebook page. It is not clear when he was discharged or under what circumstances.
An Army spokeswoman did not return an email seeking comment. Calls to numbers listed for his parents in Maryland were not returned on Wednesday.
Surveillance video recorded before the fatal attack showed Mr. Jackson following another black man around Midtown though he did not do anything to the man, the police said.
“We’re very fortunate that it stopped at one, and it wasn’t more,” Chief Aubry said.