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Family of Hampden man charged in N.Y. fatal stabbing express shock, extend condolences

The family of a Hampden man charged with fatally stabbing a black man in Manhattan, in what police called a racially motivated attack, condemned the killing in a statement Thursday.

"Our family is shocked, horrified, and heartbroken by this tragedy. We extend our prayers and condolences to the family of Timothy Caughman," the family of James Harris Jackson said in the statement.

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Jackson, 28, was raised in Towson, graduated from the Friends School of Baltimore in 2007, and most recently rented a brick rowhouse just two blocks south of The Avenue.

He came to New York last week to make a splash in the media capital of the world by killing as many black men as possible, New York police and prosecutors said. Late Monday night he saw Caughman on the street and thought he would make good practice for a larger attack in Times Square, authorities said. Jackson stabbed him in his chest and back with a 26-inch sword, police said.

Jackson was arraigned on a charge of murder as a hate crime Thursday in a Manhattan criminal court. He was being held without bail and did not enter a plea.

"His intent was to kill as many black men here in New York as he could," prosecutor Joan Illuzzi said. "The defendant was motivated purely by hatred."

Illuzzi said the charges could be upgraded because the killing was an act "most likely of terrorism."

Prosecutors said Jackson hated black men, especially those who dated white women.

After seeing his picture in the news, Jackson turned himself in at a police station. He was armed with two knives and told officers he had tossed the sword in a trash bin in Washington Square Park, officials said. It was later recovered.

Investigators said they were trying to determine exactly what drove Jackson to violence. They planned to search his laptop and phone and interviewed friends and family.

Jackson's lawyer suggested that his client might be suffering from mental illness.

"What we're going to do is take a few minutes, let the dust settle and figure out what the facts are," defense attorney Sam Talkin said outside court. "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."

Jackson's family declined to comment beyond the statement. No one answered the door at his parents' Towson home, which had a peace sign wreath and a small American flag in the planter on the front porch of the duplex. Several cars were parked outside the home and the blinds were down. An unmarked Chevy sedan with New York City Police Department plates sat outside the home.

Matt Micciche, the head of Friends School, said the school community is "shocked and saddened by the news of this horrific attack. Our school — and the Religious Society of Friends — has a long history of commitment to diversity, racial equality, social justice and nonviolence."

Jackson served in the Army from 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.

The circumstances of his discharge are unclear; the Army cites privacy laws that prevent releasing such details.

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After serving in the Army, Jackson briefly rented an apartment on Read Street in Mount Vernon, said Marcus Dagan, the landlord.

Jackson told Dagan he was studying to become a lawyer, but the man kept to himself, Dagan said.

"No signs of anything close to what he's committed. He was just weird," Dagan said.

He said Jackson moved out in 2015. Most recently he had been living in a rowhouse on West 35th Street, near Elm Avenue in Hampden. No one answered at the door or at the neighboring homes Thursday.

A vigil in Caughman's memory will be held at 6 p.m. Saturday at 36th Street and Chestnut Avenue.

"The purpose of the event is for white Hampden (and Hampden-adjacent) residents to stand up for our neighbors and visitors of color to let them know they are loved and welcome in Hampden," according to a Facebook post for the event.

Outside Jackson's home Thursday morning, a Baltimore police officer sat in a marked vehicle, along with vans from several TV stations.

A Baltimore Police Department spokesman said a uniformed officer had been posted outside the home at the request of the New York police to secure the residence until a search warrant is obtained.

Jackson did not have a criminal history listed in Maryland online court records.

Ryan Lenz, senior investigative reporter for Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project, said that since the presidential election, "we saw an incredible rise in bias incidents."

He called Caughman's killing the "most extreme" example where a particular ideology has been realized. Such ideologies always lead to violence, he said.

"It's not a question of 'if' but 'when,'" Lenz said.

While the law center had no record of Jackson being linked to any hate group, Lenz said the internet has enabled people from all backgrounds to engage in extremist acts.

It's "proven to be incredibly powerful," allowing individuals to easily access and become inspired by the rhetoric "and no one will know," Lenz said.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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