- James Harris Jackson was sentenced to life in prison without parole in February after admitting to fatally stabbing 66-year-old Timothy Caughman with a sword on a New York street in March 2017.
- For years before the killing, Jackson had Googled white supremacy and Nazi-related websites and expressed a hatred toward black men and white women who date them.
- His mother told The Washington Post that her son was “evil,” but he hadn’t expressed his views publicly.
- Mark Pitcavage, a senior research fellow with the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, told Insider that there is no family environment “totally immune to messages of hate.”
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The mother of a white supremacist who is spending life in prison after killing a black man with a sword in order to start a race war says her son is “evil,” and that he had hid his beliefs from everyone.
James Harris Jackson was sentenced to life in prison earlier this year, after admitting to fatally stabbing 66-year-old Timothy Caughman in March 2017. He had hoped to start a race war, according to the Washington Post, and once said he had an “inexplicable and instinctual murderous hatred of white women who sleep with black men.”
As part a series on hate crimes, the Washington Post spoke to Jackson’s mother about Caughman’s murder and the motives behind it.
Pat Jackson told the Post that her son’s actions were “evil,” and that the family did not know about Jackson’s beliefs.
“He’s not your typical white supremacist,” she said.
Mark Pitcavage, a senior research fellow with the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, told Insider that there is no family environment “totally immune to messages of hate.”
It’s ‘easier than one might think’ to hide extremist views, an expert told Insider
He said people learn extremist views from many places, including friends, neighbors, and the internet. And it’s “easier than one might think” to hide such views from relatives and friends, Pitcavage said.
“People may worry about stigma or negative consequences; white supremacists also face stigma and negative consequences, when they are open about their hateful beliefs. So some choose to hide them, or to reveal them only under very controlled or narrow circumstances,” he told Insider via email.
Jackson was raised by a liberal family in suburbs north of Baltimore. His grandfather had helped desegregate parts of Louisiana, and his mother was a supporter of Barack Obama.
Jackson attended Friends School of Baltimore, a Quaker school espousing pacifism and peace, before joining the US Army. He was a member of the 3rd Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, and spent some time in Afghanistan. His commanding officer was an African American man, and he fought alongside soldiers from a variety of ethnic backgrounds, none of whom said he showed outward signs of hostility toward them.
After being honorably discharged from the Army in 2012, Jackson went briefly to Italy, where he contemplated suicide. Instead, he decided to delve into the world of white supremacists online.
- Albin Lohr-Jones/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images
Pitcavage told Insider that on the internet, extremists might find people who have similar views, much like Jackson did. He said this can make people feel part of a larger movement.
“The internet plays an important role in that it can link people together across distance. In the past, someone with nascent white supremacist views might not know anyone else with such views, and be afraid to express or act on them. Today, with the click of a mouse or a tap on a cellphone, anybody anywhere can be connected to hundreds or thousands of other people with similar views,” he said.
Jackson visited hundreds of extremist websites before attacking Caughman.
Before heading to New York where he stabbed Caughman, Jackson visited 415 white supremacy websites, and 139 Nazi-related websites. He also read dozens of articles on global warming.
He then bought a hunting river, a shotgun, two knives, and a Roman-style “Gladius” sword, which he found on Amazon for $56, The Post reported.
Jackson had told his family that he was re-enlisting in the Army and moving to Germany in early 2017. Instead, he went to New York, where he spent all his savings living in a Times Square hotel, and eventually, found and killed Caughman.
Jackson told police that he killed Caughman after spotting the man collecting cans on the street. Caughman was first stabbed in the back, and when he tried to fight his attacker, he was stabbed in the chest so hard that the knife went all the way through him.
In February 2019, nearly two years after the murder, Jackson was sentenced to life without parole.
“Right now there is a photo on our fridge showing our son in Afghanistan, standing next to an African American colleague,” Pat Jackson told The Post of her son. She said the racist ideologies he held, were “in his head and on his computer until he lost his mind.”
Pitcavage told Insider that many people get involved with extremist groups long before they realize they should keep their views hidden.
He said red flags include bringing up extreme views in conversations, having an internet history showing extremist websites, or displaying white supremacist symbols.
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