Admitted white supremacist James Harris Jackson, killer of Timothy Caughman
He traveled from Baltimore to New York City, the media capital of the world, with one thing in mind – murdering Black men. James Harris Jackson, a 28-year old white male, stabbed Timothy Caughman, a 66- year old Black man, with a 26-inch sword in midtown Manhattan on March 17. Caughman was minding his own business, collecting bottles for recycling when Jackson attacked him. The victim stumbled into a nearby police precinct, mortally wounded but able to explain what had happened, and later died from his wounds.
Jackson turned himself in the next day and admitted to the police that he specifically intended to “target male blacks.”
The brazenness of this hate act is all the more disturbing when considering it fits a pattern over the last three decades of hate crimes committed by white males who were unabashed white supremacists but even more disturbing, share a similar pedigree – they all served in the United States Army. The link to military service is suggestive that our armed forces are a breeding ground for individuals who harbor hate against Blacks, other people of color and Muslims, and they acquire their killing skills with taxpayer dollars. The link cannot be ignored and should concern communities of color as thousands of these ticking racial time bombs are walking the streets.
James Harris Jackson’s vicious attack on Timothy Coughman mirrors other similar acts that have occurred. Timothy Burmeister was a former Army paratrooper, who along with fellow veterans Randy Meadows and Malcolm Wright, gunned down a Black couple, Jackie Burden and Michael James, along a dirt road near Fort Bragg in Fayetteville North Carolina. The three white men confronted the couple and shot them in the head with a 9mm handgun. Meadows testified under oath that the trio regularly engaged in acts of violence against Black people, and admitted they had been involved in the beating of a Black man who they suspected was gay and sprayed with mace a Black woman who had purchased drugs from them.
Burmeister was a member of the Army’s elite 82nd Airborne Division but he was also a neo-Nazi skinhead. His racist views had been known while he was enlisted and he had even lost his security clearance after a fight with a Black soldier. When his off-base apartment was searched, police found a cache of weapons and white supremacist literature. They also found a Nazi flag, which once hung in his Army barracks. Following this incident, the Army launched an investigation into the infiltration into the 82nd Airborne by extremist groups. Officials found 22 soldiers were found to have “active, passive or former links” to extremist groups. Nine of the soldiers faced civilian or military trials while the remainder were subject to lesser punishment.
The backdrop to the Burmeister attack has parallels to other cases. Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City federal building bomber, behind the most brazen act of modern-day domestic terrorism in our nation, was also an Army veteran. McVeigh, and his co-conspirator Terry Nichols, supported by accomplices Michael and Lori Fortier, not only killed adults but murdered 19 children who were in the building’s daycare center as well. Nichols served in the Army at Fort Benning in Columbus Georgia as a platoon leader and McVeigh served under him in the platoon. Timothy McVeigh, was a white supremacist like Burmeister, whose military training enabled him to construct the bomb in the back of a cargo truck he drove into the federal building.
The same connection can be made to Kevin Harpham, who planted a bomb on the route of a Martin Luther King Day parade in Spokane Washington in January 2010. The 37-year old Harpham is an Army veteran who has extensive ties to white supremacist groups. Harpham served at Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma. He admitted he planted the bomb to hurt people because of their race. A Seattle Times article stated law enforcement officials determined “the pipe bomb was loaded with fishing weights coated in rat person, which can inhibit blood clotting in wounds.” Harpham intended to detonate the device with a remote car starter he found on the Internet. The Times article notes he walked in the parade and took pictures of Black children and a Jewish man wearing a yarmulke. Had police not discovered the device in a backpack, the number of dead and seriously injured could have been devastating.
The Olympic Park bomber, Eric Rudolph, was also an Army veteran. He trained at Fort Benning in Georgia. Rudolph attended the Air Assault School at Fort Campbell and was discharged due to marijuana use while serving with the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell. He planted the bomb that exploded during the 1996 Summer Olympics that killed one spectator, injured 111 others and claimed the life of a foreign cameraman who had a heart attack while rushing to the scene. The Army veteran was said to have allegiances with the White Christian Identity movement, an association Rudolph denied though his violent act was praised by white supremacists. An innocent man, Richard Jewell was initially charged, vilified and later vindicated, for the incident that disrupted the international athletic competition.
Jeffrey Dahmer, the notorious sexual predator, cannibal and serial killer, who engaged in horrific killings of mostly men of color, also enlisted in the U.S. Army and was trained as a medical specialist at Fort Sam Houston. His behavior in the Army was recalled by fellow soldiers, one of whom said Dahmer repeatedly raped him. Dahmer was deemed unfit for service but was honorably discharged from the service. He was convicted of murdering and dismembering 17 boys and men between 1978 and 1991. His killings were sadistic – decapitations, preserving the skin and skulls of his victims and pulverizing bones and dissolving body parts in acid. Dahmer was sentenced to 15 terms of life imprisonment in 1992 and was killed by an inmate at the Columbia Correctional Institution in November 1994.
Each of these incidents on their own, are heinous crimes but the overlay of their military service and training of these murderers, and their racial bias, suggests a policy response is requited to better vet individuals who enlist in the armed services. Compelling a sense of urgency for lawmakers to probe this military-hate crime connection is also the tendency of many military veterans joining local police departments and being in position to cause harm to civilians with the cover of their law enforcement status and police union protection.
This latest attack in New York City could cause local and state Black elected officials, and the Congressional Black Caucus to demand a full inquiry into the connection between military service and hate crimes. Given the number of military veterans walking the streets, some with mental health issues, it would seem to be a matter of some urgency to explore.
(Photo Collage: Clockwise, James Harris Jackson, Eric Rudolph, Timothy Burmeister and Timothy McVeigh.)