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Racist 'assassin' indicted as terrorist in NYC murder of black man

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 28/03/2017 Mike James

A sword-wielding racist who traveled to New York City and allegedly killed a homeless black man was charged Monday with state terrorism charges - a rarity - in a crime that prosecutors decried as an assault on personal and racial freedom.

The Manhattan district attorney's office took the dramatic step of filing first- and second-degree murder as an act of terrorism charges against James Jackson, 28. Terrorism charges are typically filed at the federal level and are reserved for suspects who planned mass attacks, anti-abortion killings, or eco-terrorism. Among the most famous domestic terror cases are the Unabomber attacks, the Oklahoma City bombing, and the Charleston church shooting.

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Jackson was originally charged with run-of-the-mill murder charges but prosecutors on Monday upgraded the ante to terrorism. He is depicted in an indictment as an assassin who traveled from his Baltimore home for one simple reason: the scouting and killing of a black person on the streets of New York.

"James Jackson prowled the streets of New York for three days in search of a black person to assassinate in order to launch a campaign of terrorism against our Manhattan community and the values we celebrate," the district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance, wrote in announcing the charges, which also include a count of murder in the second degree as a hate crime. "With total presence of mind, he acted on his plan, randomly selecting a beloved New Yorker solely on the basis of his skin color."

Fatally stabbed in the March 20 attack was Timothy Caughman, who was picking through trash when Jackson is alleged to have pulled a 26-inch sword from a long black overcoat he was wearing and stabbed him in the chest and back.

Jackson, who was staying in a midtown New York hotel, told police that he hated black men for at least a decade, police said.

“The reason he picked New York is because it’s the media capital of the world, and he wanted to make a statement,” Assistant Police Chief William Aubrey said at the time of Jackson's arrest. 

Police suggested that Jackson had been thinking of attacking others but instead chose to turn himself in.

The New York Daily News reported Sunday that Jackson said in a Rikers Island jailhouse interview with a reporter that he hoped the attack on Caughman would stop white women from entering relationships with black men.

Jackson said he grew up in an “almost all-white” area outside of Baltimore. “My family is as liberal as they come ... typical liberal Democrats,” he told the Daily News. “The white race is being eroded. ... No one cares about you. The Chinese don’t care about you, the blacks don’t care about you.” 

Alleged White Supremacist James Harris Jackson at Manhattan Criminal Court, New York, USA. © ZUMA/REX/Shutterstock Alleged White Supremacist James Harris Jackson at Manhattan Criminal Court, New York, USA. Jackson told the newspaper he is a fan of the web site Daily Stormer — which was also frequented by South Carolina church gunman Dylann Roof, who was sentenced to death for killing nine black worshipers in 2015.

Vance, the Manhattan prosecutor, said that in addition to New York's reputation as a media capital, Jackson sought out the Big Apple because of its reputation as a melting pot for different people and cultures. It was in such a place that Jackson wanted to deliver his message of hate, Vance said.

"We must never take for granted New York's remarkable diversity. We must celebrate it, protect it and refuse to let violence and hate undermine the progress we have made," Vance wrote.

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