Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and the Anti-Defamation League are rallying this morning at the corner of East 36th Street and Ninth Avenue, where 66-year-old Timothy Caughman was fatally stabbed late Monday night. Caughman's alleged killer was a white man with a stated hatred of black men—a domestic terrorist, Adams argues.
James Jackson, 28, of Maryland, took a Bolt bus to New York City last Friday, with the express purpose of targeting black men in a major media capital, according to the NYPD. An army veteran who reportedly served for three years in the early aughts, including a tour in Afghanistan, Jackson had allegedly harbored a hatred of black men for nearly a decade.
"When you create an action... to cause panic and disorder, or terror, among a group of people, either American, Jewish, or Muslim, and publicize it widely to promote your terror, I think that's terrorism," Adams told Gothamist. "He [Jackson] intentionally came to NYC, he targeted a group of people, and he wanted it to be promoted."
"This case should establish a new standard," he added. "Terrorism is not only when someone comes from overseas. It is also domestic born, and we can't ignore it."
Jackson was charged Thursday with murder in the second degree as a hate crime. Prosecutor Joan Illuzzi-Orbon described the act as "most likely an act of terrorism," though the top charge does not reflect this.
Adams is calling on Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance to upgrade Jackson's top charge to murder in the first degree, which encompasses acts of terrorism. One definition of terrorism, according to the penal code, is to "intimidate or coerce a civilian population." While the DA's office declined to comment on the request, Illuzzi-Orbon said Thursday that she plans to present additional charges to the Grand Jury, including, possibly, murder in the first degree.
A moving New York Times profile describes Caughman as a kind man with wide-ranging interests: from religion and philosophy, to antipoverty efforts (he worked for a time for an organization in Queens), to celebrity culture. He loved to read, and often posed with celebrities in-and-around Times Square. Born in Jamaica, Queens to a pastor and home health care aid, Caughman enjoyed lengthy conversations at local diners, and collected bottles and cans, in part to cover his rent at the Barbour Hotel on West 36th Street, a transitional housing facility (Caughman was one of a few permanent residents). "He was an extremely gracious individual and respectful of his neighbors," the building manager told the NY Times.
In the days since Caughman's death, activists and politicians have criticized the New York Post and Daily News for including Caughman's arrest record in its early coverage of the murder. The Daily News later removed Caughman's arrest history, though the Post left it up, alongside descriptions of the "dapper" killer.
— Eric Adams (@BPEricAdams) March 24, 2017
"Please explain what necessitated the victim of a clear bias crime record to be made public," City Council Member Jumaane Williams wrote in an Instagram post this week, directed at the Daily News. "In essence victimizing him again in death."
Jeremy Saunders, lead organizer for the grassroots group Vocal-NY, said he was also deeply disturbed by the Post stating that Caughman allegedly acted "combative before his death."
"It's a total lack of decency and overt racism that they would literally describe a dying man as combative," he said.
Hundreds of people are planning to march from Union Square to Midtown tonight in honor of Caughman. The Friday night rally will also broadly address a surge in hate crimes—in New York City, and nationally—since the November election.
"I think that people who are really hateful feel enabled because of the climate in this country, and the message coming out of the White House," said Cory Choy, a volunteer organizer of tonight's rally. "The message is that when white people commit a crime it's a single crazy person, not terrorism. But it's terrorism. There's an ideology behind it."
Attorney Sam Talkin, who is representing Jackson, told reporters yesterday that he plans to address the "obvious psychological issues that are present in this case."
[Update 1:30 p.m.]: This piece has been updated with comments from Borough President Adams.