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What you need to know for 12/14/2017

Army veteran charged with murder as hate crime in fatal stabbing

Army veteran charged with murder as hate crime in fatal stabbing

'He wasn’t just a vagrant person collecting bottles'
Army veteran charged with murder as hate crime in fatal stabbing
James Harris Jackson, who is charged with the stabbing death of a black man, at his arraignment in New York on March 23, 2017.
Photographer: Steven Hirsch/Pool via The New York Times

NEW YORK — The man who was fatally stabbed during a random street attack that the police said was racially motivated had always loved Manhattan, where he enjoyed the library and shopping, a relative said Thursday.

Timothy Caughman, of West 36th Street,had been sifting through the trash in front of a row of restaurants on Ninth Avenue when he was attacked by a man in a dark coat around 11:15 p.m. Monday, the police said.

James Harris Jackson, 28, of Baltimore, a white Army veteran with what officials said was a long-simmering hatred of black men, surrendered to the police shortly after midnight Wednesday. A day earlier, Caughman, bleeding from stab wounds to his chest and back, had stumbled into a police station, Assistant Chief William Aubry, the commander of Manhattan South detectives, told reporters at Police Headquarters.

Caughman, 66, who was black, had walked two blocks to the Midtown South Precinct, where he arrived about 10 minutes after the attack. Officers called an ambulance and he was taken to Bellevue Hospital Center, where he was later pronounced dead.

A cousin of Caughman, Seth Peek, wanted people to know that Caughman had a full life.

“He wasn’t just a vagrant person collecting bottles,” Peek said. “That was not just what his life was. He went to college, and he was concerned with young people in the neighborhood.”

Peek said Caughman grew up in Jamaica, Queens, and, Peek believed, had earned an associate degree after attending colleges in Brooklyn and on Staten Island. In the 1970s and 1980s, Caughman worked with young people in Queens in a program called the Neighborhood Youth Corps, Peek said.

His Twitter profile said he recycled cans and bottles and wanted to visit California.

Jackson had stabbed Caughman with a sword, the police said. Surveillance video recorded before the attack showed Jackson following a different black man around Midtown, the police said.

Jackson has been charged with second-degree murder, but Aubry said the police wanted to upgrade the charge by classifying it a hate crime.

“I’m the person you’re looking for,” Aubry said 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.

Jackson told the police that he came to New York City to make a statement by attacking black men. He told investigators where he had discarded the murder weapon, a 26-inch sword with an 18-inch blade, and told them he had knives in his pocket. Aubry said the police had collected video evidence that seemed to corroborate Jackson’s account of the evening.

“He was very forthcoming with us,” 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 Caughman came as cities across the country, especially New York, are experiencing a rise in hate crimes since November’s presidential election. Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has condemned the attacks, denounced the killing, which he said appeared to be based solely on 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.

On Thursday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said he was appalled by Caughman’s murder.

“Let me be very clear: This disturbing act of violence goes against everything New York stands for,” he said. “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.”

On Wednesday afternoon, Jackson was handcuffed and dressed in a Tyvek suit to protect any evidence on his body when investigators led him out of the Midtown South Precinct. He was expected to be arraigned in criminal court in Manhattan on Thursday.

The police found two knives in Jackson’s coat, and recovered the sword he said he used to kill Caughman, Aubry said. Investigators were also seeking a warrant to search his cellphone and laptop. Jackson had a manifesto explaining his 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 because the investigation is continuing.

Aubry said Jackson harbored a hatred of black men for more than a decade and came to New York last weekend to attack them.

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.

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 Wednesday.

“We’re very fortunate that it stopped at one, and it wasn’t more,” Aubry said.

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