James Jackson (center) is accused of fatally stabbing a 66-year-old stranger on a Manhattan street because he was black. Credit: Alec Tabak/The Daily News via AP Pool

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James Jackson, the 28-year-old military veteran who traveled to New York City last week to hunt and kill random black men, says he’s been a racist since age 3.

After Jackson stabbed and killed 66-year-old Timothy Caughman with a sword, he told the New York Daily News in a jailhouse interview this week that he wanted to kill African American men to send a message to white women that mixed relationships are wrong.

Jackson had a sick regret about his victim, who was chosen at random. “I didn’t know he was elderly,” he said. He would have rather killed “a young thug” or “a successful older black man with blonds … people you see in Midtown. These younger guys that put white girls on the wrong path.”

That’s a racist sentiment that’s been around a long time, but in many ways, Jackson is an archetypal modern-day American terrorist. He says he spent a lot of time honing his racism online, on forums and hateful websites, and he fits the definition of a “lone wolf” domestic terrorist that government analysts warned about almost a decade ago.

Experts on hate and terrorism frequently cite online radicalization as a key driver of terrorism in America. Terrorists from Dylann Roof, who killed nine African Americans in a shooting at a church in 2015, to Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev reportedly spent long hours discussing their hatred and political views with like-minded people on forums and message boards.

Jackson referenced the Daily Stormer as a website he frequented. The site, which resembles a sort of white supremacist National Enquirer, is a mishmash of racist, sexist and violent blog posts. One post, under the headline “7 Creative Uses for Right-Wing Death Squads in America,” lists artists, university professors and “lying journalists” as worthy targets of violence. The story carries a disclaimer at the bottom saying it doesn’t really condone violence.

Roof is reported to have been a fan of the site.

On Monday, Jackson was charged with murder as an act of terrorism by the Manhattan district attorney. A now-infamous 2009 report by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security warned that right-wing terrorists pose a significant threat to the American public. That report essentially forewarned of an attack by someone such as Jackson:

The return of military veterans facing significant challenges reintegrating into their communities could lead to the potential emergence of terrorist groups or lone wolf extremists capable of carrying out violent attacks.     

The report was criticized widely by conservative lawmakers. Its author was ostracized by the government. Since the report came out, however, there have been at least 17 fatal attacks by right-wing terrorists, according to data from the nonprofit think tank New America.

A 2015 study on domestic terrorism by two professors from Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill reached this conclusion:

Right-wing violence appears consistently greater than violence by Muslim extremists in the United States since 9/11, according to multiple definitions in multiple datasets.

Jackson is therefore pretty much a typical modern American domestic terrorist: an angry, bitter young white man, radicalized online, who attacks a minority in a single act of viciousness.

America sees similar attacks every day. Most aren’t fatal. But they’re certainly not rare.

New stats

  • Hate crimes were up 13.2 percent in 2016 across the 15 jurisdictions that the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino studies annually, according to its new report.
  • Oregon, which was officially a white-only state until 1926, has seen a disproportionate increase in the number of hate incidents and racist graffiti, according to BuzzFeed News.
  • Hate crimes in New York City shot up 106 percent in the first three months of 2017 compared with 2016, according to a report by New York-based DNAinfo. Police have made arrests in only 31 of 128 hate crimes so far this year.

Public comment

  • On Monday, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and White House press secretary Sean Spicer refused to answer questions about Jackson and the stabbing in Manhattan.
  • Commentators, including writer and professor Moustafa Bayoumi and civil rights activist Shaun King, continued to ask why President Donald Trump has made no mention of the terrorist attack in Manhattan and why he has made no condolences to the victim’s family.
  • With still no word from Trump on the Manhattan stabbing, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio called out the president on Twitter on Wednesday:

The White House refuses to call the murder of Timothy Caughman a hate crime. Just like when Trump refused to disavow David Duke and the KKK.

New threats

  • A woman in the New York borough of Queens was shot in the face with a BB gun by men who laughed and shouted an anti-Latino slur from their car.
  • In Minneapolis, a man was arrested after he bit and stabbed a black man. Kelvin Porter, 47, told police that he “tried to stab the Somalian in the neck” and “I hate Muslims.”
  • In Troutdale, Oregon, an Iranian man who has lived in the U.S. since 2010 returned home from vacation to find his home scrawled with racist graffiti, including, “Fuck you terrorist.”

“The vandals left a note on (the victim’s) coffee table, weighed down with seven .45 caliber bullets arranged in the shape of a cross,” the Portland Tribune reported.

  • A man threw rocks and a Bible through the door of a mosque in Fort Collins, Colorado, on Sunday. The man later was arrested and charged.   
  • A man in Riverside, California, was arrested after shouting racial abuse at his neighbor and attempting to burn his truck.

Follow-ups

  • An 80-year-old man in Junction City, Wisconsin, was charged with a hate crime after he shot in the direction of his neighbor, who is of Hmong descent.  

Flickering signs of hope for humanity

Will Carless can be reached at wcarless@revealnews.org. Follow him on Twitter: @willcarless.

Will Carless was a correspondent for Reveal covering extremism. He has worked as a foreign correspondent in Asia and South America. Prior to joining Reveal, he was a senior correspondent for Public Radio International’s Global Post team based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Before that, Will spent eight years at the Voice of San Diego, where he worked as an investigative reporter and head of investigations. During his tenure in San Diego, Will was awarded several prizes, including a national award from Investigative Reporters and Editors. He has been a finalist for the Livingston Awards for young journalists twice in the last five years. He surfs, spends time with his family, travels to silly places and pretends he’s writing a novel.