North America

White supremacist pleads guilty to killing black man in New York to start a 'race war'

James Jackson at the Manhattan Supreme Court in New York. Source: NYTNS

James Jackson was planning a larger attack at Times Square, where he intended to murder young black men who were dating white women.


He hated black men. He wanted to kill them, and he did.

In a videotaped confession, James Harris Jackson, a white Army veteran from Baltimore, told investigators that he spent several days two years ago stalking black men in Manhattan before he spotted a 66-year-old man sifting through trash for recyclables.

And in an undeniable testament of his hate, Jackson said he pulled a short sword from his coat and repeatedly stabbed the man, Timothy Caughman.

James Jackson at the Manhattan Supreme Court in New York.
James Jackson said he fatally stabbed Caughman as practice for a terror campaign against blacks who date whites.

The killing, Jackson said, was “practice” for a larger attack he had planned for Times Square, where he intended to murder young black men who were with white women because he loathed interracial dating.

Jackson, 30, pleaded guilty Friday to rare state charges of murder as terrorism and murder as a hate crime, accepting what is certain to be a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

His dramatic plea to all counts against him came four months after the video of his interview with police was presented at a pretrial hearing in state Supreme Court in Manhattan.

Jackson, who walked into the courtroom on crutches, wearing black slack pants and a white button-up shirt, made no speech and expressed no remorse.

He answered a series of questions from Justice Laura A. Ward in a matter-of-fact tone.

The judge asked him if he had stabbed Caughman because he was black and hoped the attack would incite “a racial war.”

“Yes,” he said.

'No mercy'

The murder of Caughman came at a time when hate crimes were rising throughout the country and in New York City.

While New York has continued to be one of the safest big cities in the country, the number of reported hate crimes increased by 5 percent last year.

Prosecutors in Manhattan say the number of cases in the borough have increased steadily since the 2016 election of President Donald Trump, whose rhetoric is often divisive.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said Jackson’s conviction was the first of a white supremacist on terrorism charges in New York, and one of a few in the country. Vance had intended to try the case himself.

“This is an incredibly disturbed young man and he brought tragedy to Manhattan, and he certainly showed Mr. Caughman no mercy, and I don’t think this office should show him any,” Vance said during an interview at his office. “It was a cruel and completely planned attack with a broader political goal.”

A family friend and a cousin of Caughman looked on as Jackson entered his guilty plea.

“The pain is still there,” said Caughman’s longtime friend, Portia Clark, 66. “I’m grateful he pleaded guilty to all of the charges and they can take him back and throw the key away.”

Clark, standing outside of the courtroom, addressed Jackson: “And no — I don’t forgive you for what you did.”

Hunting victims

On St Patrick’s Day in 2017, Jackson boarded a bus in Washington, D.C., and rode it to New York City.

He said he thought about going to another city, but settled on New York because he believed his attack would receive the most media attention there: “I wanted to basically influence the national conversation,” he said.

“I was planning on doing basically as many as I could in Times Square,” he told detectives during a two-hour interview after his arrest.

The Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., speaks with friends and relatives of murder victim Timothy Caughman outside Manhattan Supreme Court, in New York.
The Manhattan district attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr., speaks with friends and relatives of murder victim Timothy Caughman.


He said he had planned to send an email to The New York Times or CNN to explain the motive behind his “terrorist attack” or what he described as “an amateurish, slipshod version” of one.

After arriving to the city, Jackson checked into a hotel on West 46th Street. He spent three days hunting victims with a short sword and two smaller knives tucked into his coat.

Security cameras filmed him as he followed a black man whom he later told investigators he decided against attacking because there were too many people around.

He said he followed 10 to 15 black people or groups with the intent of killing them, but hesitated each time.

Then, about 11:15pm March 20, Jackson spotted Caughman rummaging through trash on West 36th Street near Ninth Avenue.

Caughman was a recycler who lived nearby in a room at the Barbour Hotel, which now houses formerly homeless people transitioning to permanent housing. (In earlier reports about the murder, Caughman was inaccurately described as homeless.)

Jackson told investigators he stabbed Caughman in the back. Vance said the sword struck several of Caughman’s organs, causing him to bleed out. Caughman screamed and asked Jackson, “What are you doing?”

Jackson responded by stabbing Caughman several more times in the chest before fleeing. He broke the tip of his sword during the attack and tossed it in a garbage can in Washington Square Park.

Bleeding, Caughman walked a block to a police station on West 35th Street, where officers called an ambulance, police said. He died at Bellevue Hospital.

Soon Jackson’s image from security cameras appeared in news reports. A day after the attack, Jackson turned himself in at a police substation in Times Square.

During his interview with detectives, Jackson said he intended the murder of Caughman to be a “declaration of global war on the Negro race,” and that he wanted to “inspire white men to kill black men, to scare black men and to provoke a race war.”

He told a detective that he felt no remorse. He said his goal was “a global policy aimed at the complete extermination of the Negro race.”

“I was going for something a bit bigger,” he said.

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch