On Wednesday, the NYPD announced that 28-year-old James Harris Jackson had been charged with the murder of Timothy Caughman, a 66-year-old African-American man.
According to Vice, Jackson, who is white, had allegedly driven from Maryland to Manhattan and was "specifically intending to single out" black men for assault. As reported by the New York Daily News, NYPD officials claimed he was part of an unnamed hate group and the author of a racist manifesto.
According to the Daily News, police believe Jackson attacked Caughman with a two-foot-long "black sword," stabbing him in the chest multiple times before running away. Jackson, a U.S. Army combat veteran, later planned to attack an interracial couple, but turned himself when he saw his photo on the news. Caughman died at a local hospital.
The crime comes amidst a disturbing trend: an increase of politically and racially motivated crimes. As reported by Southern Poverty Law Center, the number of hate groups rose for the second year in a row in 2016, and there were over 1,000 bias-related assaults in the first month after Trump's election alone.
As the New Yorker reported, Richard Cohen, the president of the S.P.L.C. said about the rise in violence after the election, “This represents a big increase in what we’ve seen since the campaign, and these incidents are far and wide: we’re seeing them in schools, we’re seeing them in places of business, we’re seeing them in museums and gas stations."
Despite the Trump Administration's focus on combating what it labels as "radical Islamic terrorism," experts believe right-wing extremism is a bigger threat to the lives of Americans. According to the national security think tank New America, right-wing political violence killed more people in the U.S. than Islamic terror in the period between the September 11th attacks to the Pulse Nightclub shooting in June 2016.
Many noted on social media that coverage of Jackson's attack failed to connect the crime to this growing national concern. Instead, readers looking for information about the incident were treated to a surprising preponderance of sartorial commentary.
The New York Daily News described video the NYPD released as showing Jackson "bolting from the stabbing dressed in a sharp overcoat." At the same time, it made sure to play up Caughman's "11 prior arrests, including for marijuana, assault, resisting arrest and menacing."
Meanwhile, the New York Post made sure to point out Jackson's "chic dark-colored pea coat," also calling him a "well-dressed suspect." The Post also outlined Caughman's prior arrest record while mentioning Jackson's honorable discharge from the Army.
And while the Daily Mail didn't single out Jackson's wardrobe, it did make sure to include pictures of him from his Army service, while also listing Caughman's previous crimes.
New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio did not shy away from placing the attack in a larger national context. “Now it’s our collective responsibility to speak clearly and forcefully in the face of intolerance and violence — here or across the country." the mayor said in a statement, reported by the Washington Post.
“We are a safe city because we are inclusive. We are a nation of unrivaled strength because we are diverse. No act of violence can undermine who we are.”