A Tale of Two Killings

Seth Barron, City Journal, March 31, 2017

The grisly Manhattan murder of Timothy Caughman, an elderly black man, by a white racist bent on dissuading people from interracial dating shocked even the most jaded New Yorkers. Responding to calls from Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance indicted the confessed killer James Jackson on state charges of “murder as an act of terror.”

Speaking about the crime at a press conference earlier this week, the mayor condemned President Trump and his press secretary Sean Spicer for not forthrightly labeling the murder a hate crime or an act of terrorism. “If a guy kills someone for a racist reason, call him a racist, call him a terrorist, period,” said de Blasio. “This was a horrible incident, and exceedingly rare: we can’t remember another situation exactly like this in recent history in New York City.”

Every incident differs in its details, but the mayor shouldn’t have had to tax his memory too strenuously to recall a recent murder that was at least vaguely similar. Last month, Chanel Lewis was arrested for the murder of Karina Vetrano, who was strangled to death while jogging in a park near her house. Lewis, who is black, told an NYPD detective that Vetrano, a white woman, came from the Howard Beach area in Queens, a 90-percent white Italian-American neighborhood. “I don’t like those people over there,” Lewis admitted.

Chanel Lewis

Chanel Lewis

The murders of Caughman and Vetrano were random killings perpetrated by strangers of a different race from their victims. In each case, the confessed killers offered up racist motives to the police, and those confessions are the only evidence of the killers’ intentions. In one case, the admission of racial animus was reported and quickly forgotten; in the other, racist motives have elevated the slaying beyond a hate crime to the realm of domestic terrorism, with a demand for action at the highest levels of the federal government.

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