Monday 20 January 2020

White army veteran 'sword killer' wanted to attack black people, police say

James Harris Jackson is escorted out of a police precinct in New York, after being accused of fatally stabbing a black man (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
James Harris Jackson is escorted out of a police precinct in New York, after being accused of fatally stabbing a black man (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

A white US army veteran from Baltimore determined to make a racist attack took a bus to New York, randomly picked out a black man and killed him with a sword, police said.

James Harris Jackson turned himself in at a Times Square police station early on 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 had harboured feelings of hatred toward black men for at least 10 years, the authorities said.

He travelled to New York on Friday and had been staying in a Manhattan hotel.

"The reason he picked New York is because it is the media capital of the world and he wanted to make a statement," Mr Aubrey said.

Jackson was wandering the streets in a long overcoat concealing a 26-inch sword when he encountered Mr Caughman, who was collecting bottles from rubbish bins, police said. Jackson stabbed him repeatedly in his chest and back, they said.

Mr Caughman, who was 66 and lived nearby in a transitional house, was taken to a hospital by police shortly after he arrived to the station house.

He died in hospital. According to his Twitter page, he was an autograph collector and a music and film lover who tweeted about John Lennon, Chuck Berry and the best St Patrick's Day writing. He said he would like to visit California someday.

After the attack, Jackson, who is 28, went to the toilet 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 rubbish bin not far from the scene.

Video surveillance captured Jackson in the days leading up to the killing, and investigators said he had walked purposefully toward a black man but did not attack him.

Jackson was expected to appear in court later on Wednesday. He said nothing to reporters as he was led from a police station.

A former neighbour who tangled with Jackson over a flat 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.

Mr 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 to be a lawyer, Mr Dagan said.

Jackson left behind a collection of war movies in the flat, the former neighbour 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.

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".


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