The New York Daily News published a story Wednesday about James Harris Jackson, a 28-year-old white man from Baltimore who allegedly traveled to New York City, encountered a 66-year-old black stranger named Timothy Caughman and stabbed him to death Monday night.
Police said the crime was racially motivated, and that Jackson surrendered at a New York Police Department substation in Times Square two days after the killing.
"I'm the person you're looking for," Jackson told officers Wednesday, according to WNBC.
"He knew what he was doing when he was coming up here," Det. William Aubrey added, citing Jackson's history of hatred toward black people. Yet the Daily News' report — co-authored by Rocco Parascandola, Aidan McLaughlin and Graham Rayman — went out of its way to highlight the arrest record of Caughman, the black victim.
"He has 11 prior arrests, including for marijuana, assault, resisting arrest and menacing," the passage read.
At the end of the story, the reporters dedicated an additional paragraph to an unrelated crime committed by another black man, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, who traveled from Baltimore and murdered two NYPD officers in December 2014.
"Brinsley fled police to the platform of a nearby subway station and shot himself to death," the story concluded.
This gratuitous emphasis on alleged crimes committed by black people in a story where such information is immaterial echoes a history of media publications using black criminality to implicitly justify black death.
The most famous recent example was Michael Brown, who was killed by former Ferguson, Missouri, police Officer Darren Wilson in August 2014. Media outlets circulated photos of Brown stone-faced in a tank top holding up three fingers — an apparent attempt to make him look menacing — while a New York Times article described the slain 18-year-old as "no angel," citing his past flirtations with drugs, alcohol and petty theft.
None of this was relevant to why or how Brown was killed. Nor was Caughman's arrest record relevant to his violent demise at the hands of a white supremacist, despite the Daily News story's suggestion. Yet here we are. Apparently, some outlets have learned little since this kind of skewed coverage gained national attention in the wake of recent police killings.