James Harris Jackson, a 28-year-old Maryland army veteran and admitted white supremacist, stalked an unidentified black man in Hells Kitchen on Monday night before fatally stabbing 66-year-old Timothy Caughman, also black, according to media reports.
Jackson, who stabbed Caughman multiple times around 11:30 p.m. on Monday night, told investigators that he was deterred from the other man when something "spooked" him, according to the Daily News. Jackson's account reportedly tracks with surveillance footage collected from Hell's Kitchen.
"He appeared to be very close, following a black guy," a police source told the tabloid. "He slows down and at one point he turned around and came back. It's clear he was really focused on the guy for some time. Then, he falls out of camera view and doesn't attack the guy. He made statements that he was following the guy but something spooked him."
A spokeswoman for the NYPD declined to comment on these allegations on Thursday.
Caughman, a bottle collector who filled his Twitter account with celebrity selfies, was rummaging through recycling near the intersection of West 36th Street and 9th Avenue when Jackson attacked him with a 26-inch black "mini-sword," according to the NYPD.
"He was roaming through the streets," Manhattan Chief of Detectives William Aubry said of Jackson, on Wednesday. "Our victim happened to be going through garbage on the sidewalk. There happened to be no one else around."
Caughman managed to walk to the Midtown South Precinct for help but died around 1:00 a.m. at Bellevue Hospital. Jackson fled the scene; the Daily News reports that he cleaned up in a nearby McDonald's.
"On Monday evening an innocent man was stabbed to death in what appears to be an unprovoked attacked prompted by the victim's race," Mayor de Blasio said in a statement Wednesday. "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."
Chief Aubry told reporters that Jackson took a Bolt bus to NYC last Friday, with the express purpose of targeting black men. 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. He intended to deliver a manifesto "explaining his desire and plans" to the New York Times, a source told that paper.
"He picked New York because it's the media capital of the world and he wanted to make a statement," Aubry said.
Jackson turned himself in at the Times Square police station shortly after midnight Wednesday morning. He told police, "I'm the person you're looking for," and revealed knives in his pockets, according to the NYPD.
The Daily News reports that Jackson had spent some time at the main branch of the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue Tuesday, reading about the murder online. He also told police that he belonged to a white supremacist group, according to multiple reports. The NYPD has not confirmed the name of the group, but reportedly confiscated Jackson's laptop and cellphone.
Jackson has been preliminarily charged with second-degree murder, but has yet to be arraigned. Aubry said Wednesday that the NYPD is "working with" the Manhattan DA's office to upgrade the charge to a hate crime.