City’s Farewell to Beloved Man Allegedly Targeted for His Race

The Reverend Christopher Howard, pastor of Mount Zion Baptist Church in Jamaica, presiding over the funeral of Timothy Caughman on April 1, as Mayor Bill de Blasio looks on. | NAT VALENTINE

The Reverend Christopher Howard, pastor of Mount Zion Baptist Church in Jamaica, presiding over the funeral of Timothy Caughman on April 1, as Mayor Bill de Blasio looks on. | NAT VALENTINE

BY PATRICK DONACHIE | Timothy Caughman was remembered at his April 1 funeral by friends, well-wishers, and elected officials as a generous and warm individual who loved conversing with fellow New Yorkers.

Caughman, 66, a West Side resident was allegedly murdered on Ninth Avenue by Baltimore resident James Harris Jackson, 28, with law enforcement officials attributing the motivation to racial hatred and a desire for publicity.

Mayor Bill de Blasio was on hand to speak to parishioners at Mount Zion Baptist Church in Jamaica, Queens. Caughman was born in Jamaica and grew up in the South Jamaica Houses. He was living in Manhattan in a transitional housing facility at the Barbour Hotel on West 36th Street — very close to where he was stabbed with a 26-inch sword — at the time of his murder.

“He was attacked because of who he was, plain and simple,” de Blasio said during his remarks. “And don’t think for a moment it was an attack on one stray man, because it was an attack on all of us. It was a racist attack. It was an act of domestic terrorism. We have to call it what it is, but it was also an attack on all of us because this city stands for something. So, it’s no surprise that evil came calling here.”

Referring to previous remarks made during the service — with a number of speakers noting his customary helpfulness to passersby in Midtown — the mayor said Caughman’s success at living in “a state of joy” can be difficult to maintain in a city as frenzied as New York.

Mayor Bill de Blasio offers a tribute to Timothy Caughman. | NAT VALENTINE

Mayor Bill de Blasio offers a tribute to Timothy Caughman. | NAT VALENTINE

“We all have to work hard to try and find the joy sometimes even when it’s staring us in the face,” de Blasio said. “Timothy understood something that maybe a lot of us don’t understand well enough. He understood what was good around us and he obviously had a love for his fellow human being.”

Though not explicitly mentioning President Donald Trump, the mayor did allude to a need to “understand the forces of hate that have been unleashed in recent months.” He also chastised some media outlets that focused on long-ago arrests of Caughman rather than the fact he had been killed in a racist attack.

“He was a black man killed by a white man whose goal was to find black people and kill them. Period,” the mayor said. “And it was noted, and then quickly the media, and our society in general, moved onto other topics. Let me be straightforward: What if it had been a black man who traveled to another city with the sole purpose of killing white people?”

Caughman earned an associate’s degree from Brooklyn College and had earlier been a social service worker in Queens antipoverty programs, including the Neighborhood Youth Corps.

According to Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr., Jackson traveled to New York City and walked the streets of New York for three days, seeking a black person to murder.

“James Jackson wanted to kill black men, planned to kill black men, and then did kill a black man,” Vance said shortly after the suspect’s arrest. “He chose Midtown as his crime scene because Manhattan is the media capital of the world and a place where people of different races live together and love one another. We must never take for granted New York’s remarkable diversity. We must celebrate it, protect it, and refuse to let violence and hate undermine the progress we have made as a city, a state, and a nation.”

Vance said Jackson allegedly found his victim in front of 462 Ninth Avenue, just below 36th Street, at about 11:25 p.m. on March 20, repeatedly stabbing Caughman before fleeing. Wounded, the victim was able to make it to the nearby Midtown South Precinct, but died shortly thereafter at Bellevue Hospital.

Childhood friends of Timothy Caughman gathered to celebrate his life. | NAT VALENTINE

Childhood friends of Timothy Caughman gathered to celebrate his life. | NAT VALENTINE

In the early morning hours of March 22, after video of the suspect circulated, Jackson turned himself in to police at the Times Square subway station, confessing to the killing. According to police, he said he intended to use the slaying of Caughman as “practice” for a larger-scale assault on black men in Times Square. Having been captured on video appearing to stalk other black men in Midtown, the suspect is reported to have had simmering rage about interracial marriage between black men and white women.

Jackson has been arraigned on charges of murder as a hate crime, murder as an act of terror, and assorted weapons-related charges.

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