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Army Veteran Accused Of Racially-Motivated Murder Appears In Court

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- An army veteran accused of the racially-motivated murder of a black man in Midtown appeared in court on Thursday.

The suspect, identified as 28-year-old James Harris Jackson, of Baltimore, surrendered just after midnight Wednesday after seeing himself on the news. He walked into the Times Square police substation, telling officers, "I'm the person that you're looking for."

Jackson is charged with second-degree murder in the stabbing death of 66-year-old Timothy Caughman. Police said Caughman was going through the trash when he was randomly attacked Monday night.

As CBS2's Raegan Medgie reported, prosecutors called it 'cold blooded' and 'motivated by pure hatred' as they described to the judge why the white man killed a black man on Monday night.

Authorities say Jackson used a sword to stab Caughman and later discarded the weapon in a trash can. The weapon was later recovered.

Midtown Stabbing Alleged Murder Weapon
A 26-inch sword police believe was used in a fatal Midtown stabbing. (credit: CBS2)

Police believe Jackson traveled from Baltimore to New York City to intentionally target black men. Police say Jackson chose Manhattan because it is the media capital of the world and he wanted to make a statement.

"It appears Jackson has been harboring feelings of hatred toward black men for at least 10 years," NYPD Chief of Manhattan Detectives William Aubry said, adding that Monday's deadly attack was "clearly racially motivated."

Jackson looked angry and annoyed as he was slowly escorted into the courtroom -- surrounded by twice as many police officers as normal.

He glanced around the courtroom, likely noticing the media attention his case was getting that prosecutors say he desperately wanted, 1010 WINS' Sonia Rincon reported. They called it a crime motivated purely by hatred.

"James Jackson is a racist terrorist," Black Lives Matter New York President, Hawk Newsome, said.

"I felt a chill when he came into that courtroom. I felt like I was looking at pure evil," he continued.

Jackson faces a first-degree murder charge, which could be upgraded to first-degree if the stabbing is determined to be an act of terrorism, WCBS 880's Peter Haskell reported.

Newsome watched the hearing, and said he was thinking of the victim.

"No one deserves to die like that," he said. "We're trying to contact the victim's family now. Even if there is not family, we're his family. He's a black brother who was lost, and we'll fight for him."

Newsome also said it was unnerving to many in the black community to see an innocent man stalked and stabbed, allegedly only because of his race.

"We are not safe in the streets of the country that we built," he said. "And this administration is perpetuating and encouraging this type of hate." 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo offered his condolences to the Caughman family, and condemned the violence.

"We will not allow the forces of racism and hate to intimidate or divide us. Let me be very clear: This disturbing act of violence goes against everything New York stands for," Cuomo said in a statement. "Not only must we repudiate this attack, but we must continue to deny that the ideas behind this cowardly crime have any place in democratic society."

When asked about the incident at a press conference on Thursday, Mayor Bill de Blasio did not provide comment, WCBS 880's Rich Lamb reported.

Jackson was in the Army from March 2009 to August 2012 and worked as a military intelligence analyst, the Army said. Deployed in Afghanistan from December 2010 to November 2011, he earned several medals and attained the rank of specialist.

"If the facts are anything near what the allegations are then we're going to address the obvious psychological issues that are present in this case," defense attorney Sam Taklin said.

Jackson was also a 2007 graduate from the Friends School, CBS2's Raegan Medgie reported. The organization released a statement to its community following the arrest.

"Everything about this attack, especially its apparent motivation, is entirely antithetical to our values and ideals as a school and those of the Religious Society of Friends," the statement read.

After his court appearance Jackson was taken back to jail. He's due back in front of a judge on Monday.

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