Bronx Councilman Andy King called for the death penalty for a white supremacist who traveled from Maryland to New York City to kill a 66-year-old black man in Midtown Manhattan, arguing for “eye for an eye justice”—that “you should be executed if you want to execute somebody.”
Army veteran James Harris Jackson was charged with second-degree murder as a hate crime after he stabbed Queens native Timothy Caughman to death with a sword on 36th Street and 9th Avenue in Midtown Manhattan, according to the New York Times. Jackson, who turned himself in, reported traveling from Baltimore to New York City specifically and explicitly to kill a black man in a place where it was sure to draw mass media attention.
King scoffed at the idea that the murderer receive only a prison sentence for his crime.
“If you think it’s okay to kill somebody, you shouldn’t go to a country club upstate, get three meals and a cot and be taken care of,” the lawmaker said at a rally organized by Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and the Anti-Defamation League. “No, you should be executed if you want to execute somebody. That’s real talk.”
The state Court of Appeals ruled New York’s death penalty statute unconstitutional in 2004, and then-Gov. David Paterson disbanded death row via executive order in 2008.
King told the crowd that America “has always been built on a racial divide,” a fact which people try to ignore. He alluded in particular to the Constitution’s “Three-Fifths” Clause, which determined that only three-fifths of a state’s slave population would count toward its congressional apportionment.
“Until the Constitution makes us equal, then we can start treating each other equal and if you violate us, then you know what?An eye for an eye,” he said. “We’re not having a press conference for someone who killed a little Jewish boy, a little Italian guy, a little Caucasian boy or man.”
King also called out media focus on Caughman’s criminal history. Yesterday, the Council’s Black, Latino and Asian Caucus blasted the “disrespectful and biased reporting” of the hate crime.
They asserted that, even though the language has since been removed from the article, “the damage has already been done.”
Adams cautioned against characterizing the murder as an isolated incident—and linked the attack to the spike in hate crimes that has followed President Donald Trump’s election.
“This knife is a knife of racism but it’s also a knife of terrorism and if we merely try to isolate this incident and say, ‘Well, this is just one deranged person’—no,” said Adams, holding up a blade to symbolize the crime as he addressed the crowd. “He comes from a sea of deranged people that are swimming with the tide of America’s philosophy right now and if we don’t address it, we are going to continue to see the swastikas, the anti-LGBT community, the hatred.”
The pol asserted Jackson, and fellow members of white supremacist organizations, “are no different than ISIS.” Thus, he urged Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance to treat the attack as an act of terrorism.
“Hate crime is not enough,” he said. “If you commit an act that intentionally want to cause terror in a group of people, that is a clear definition of terrorism.”
Brooklyn Councilman Robert Cornegy, co-chair of the BLAC, described how it “broke his heart” to hear African-American seniors at a center in his district tell him that Caughman’s murder wasn’t anything new. He also announced he and his colleagues would soon meet with Police Commissioner James O’Neill.
“They said that to them, this was reminiscent of a time in this very century when white supremacists could run into any community that they felt that they could and drag you out by your ankles i.e. Emmett Till and kill with no fear of reprisal,” Cornegy said. “Well, I stand here to say that in this very century, what we’re calling on NYPD [to do] is to set a standard for a fear of reprisal.”
Cornegy also asserted Trump’s rhetoric “has activated cells in this country that have existed for centuries, but under past administrations have felt themselves relegated to being in the shadows.”
Kenny Carter, president of Fathers Alive in the Hood, or FAITH, said “relationships have to be rebuilt and reestablished in our communities,” noting that more than a dozen black and Hispanic teenage girls in Washington, D.C. are missing.
“To me, the signs are kind of coinciding with one another because these are all happening within this week’s span,” Carter said.
Afaf Nasher, executive director of the New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said that the Muslim community has its own experience with hate “that’s been perhaps emphasized even more with this administration.”
“But let’s not forget that the Muslim community is also diverse—one-third of Muslims are African-American brothers and sisters,” Nasher said. “And so they are our community and every community that’s targeted is my community.”
Speaking on the radio this morning, Mayor Bill de Blasio called the murder an act of terrorism and said that there is a “dynamic of hatred” that has been growing in the country, which he said has “particularly come out in the open” after the election and with Trump’s rhetoric.
“Look, this is domestic, racist terrorism,” de Blasio said. “There’s no question. It is the equivalent of what happened in Charleston at the church, which was one of the most horrible incidents that’s occurred in this nation in many years—a racially motivated act of domestic terrorism.”