For James Harris Jackson, the killing of Timothy Caughman was just “practice.” Jackson, a white man, had traveled up to Times Square in the days leading up to St. Patrick’s Day 2017 to start a race war. After stalking groups of black people for several days, Jackson came upon Caughman, a 66-year-old black man sifting through recyclables alone. Taking a short sword from his coat, the 30-year-old white Army veteran brutally stabbed Caughman to death.
Following the heinous crime Jackson, a Baltimore resident, became the first white supremacist to be prosecuted on terrorism charges in New York, according to Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. On Wednesday, Jackson pleaded guilty to murder in furtherance of terrorism, NBC News reports. With the guilty plea, Jackson will spend the rest of his life behind bars, without the possibility of parole.
In a statement read outside the courtroom, Vance said Jackson’s crime was “more than a murder case,” reports the New York Times.
“This was a case of terrorism, just as any Islamic jihadist who has come to New York City and sought to kill New Yorkers in an effort to interrupt and destabilize our way of life,” Vance said.
“It won’t reverse the alarming rise of white nationalism in America. It is, however, the loudest message that a civil society can send to would-be terrorists,” the Manhattan District Attorney added.
Hate crimes have spiked around the country since 2016—with many experts crediting then-presidential candidate Donald Trump’s divisive campaign rhetoric for inspiring white nationalists and white supremacists to not only air their racist views but to act on them.
In New York City, long considered a liberal bastion by people across the political spectrum, hate crimes rose 5 percent in 2018 compared to the year before, according to the Times. Despite this increase in hate crimes, prosecuting white supremacists on terrorist charges is still a rarity nationwide.
But Jackson’s case was as black-and-white a case of extraordinary racial animus as one can find. In a videotaped confession with police, Jackson made explicit that he targeted Caughman because he was alone and vulnerable. He also said his larger intention, in traveling to Times Square, was to generate as much media attention as possible.
As the Times reports, Jackson told detectives he wanted to “inspire white men to kill black men, to scare black men and to provoke a race war.” And while Jackson particularly loathed interracial couples—specifically black men with white women—his end goal was “a global policy aimed at the complete extermination of the Negro race.”
Right up until his guilty plea, Jackson showed no remorse, according to reporters covering the court proceedings. He declined to give any speech or explanation on his behalf on Wednesday.
One of Caughman’s longtime friends, Portia Clark, was on hand to witness Jackson at the courtroom on Wednesday. She told the Times she was grateful for his guilty plea, so now state officials “can take [Jackson] back and throw the key away.”
Outside the courtroom, the 66-year-old woman had one message for the man who mercilessly killed her friend: “No—I don’t forgive you for what you did.”