"[He] picked New York because it's the media capital of the world and he wanted to make a statement," said NYPD's Chief of Manhattan Detectives William Aubry.
James Harris Jackson, 28, a military veteran who served in Afghanistan, had harbored hatred for black men for more than a decade, Aubry said. He traveled to New York on a Bolt bus Friday and was staying at a Midtown hotel, officials said.
Video shows Jackson stalking a black man only to pull away without attacking, sources said.
Then Jackson was out Monday when he spotted a 66-year-old man, who sources identified as Timothy Caughman, rummaging through some trash near West 36th Street and Ninth Avenue about 11:25 p.m. Monday and attacked, police said.
Caughman, who also went by "Hard Rock," managed to stagger about a block to the NYPD's Midtown South Precinct stationhouse where emergency medical responders picked him up and brought him to Bellevue Hospital, police said. He was pronounced dead at the hospital.
In footage released Tuesday night, Jackson can be seen with carefully combed blond hair with a long black coat running from the scene.
Jackson dashed into a nearby restaurant to clean Caughman's blood off him, sources said.
Other video apparently shows Jackson wandering through Midtown, sometimes walking in circles, officials said.
Jackson ultimately turned himself in to police in Times Square about 12:30 a.m. Wednesday morning, saying they needed to arrest him because he was carrying two knives, police said.
Investigators also found a black 26-inch blade, which they think was used to kill Caughman, officials said.
(Courtesy of the NYPD)
He was charged with murder after being questioned Wednesday afternoon, police said.
Investigators are also questioning Jackson's family to learn more about his background, officials said.
Jackson joined the Army in 2009, training at forts Leonard Wood and Huachuca before his tour in Afghanistan between December 2010 and November 2011, according to the Daily News. He was later stationed in Baumholder, Germany, before being discharged in 2012 as a private, the newspaper reported.
Jackson had been awarded the Army Good Conduct Medal and an Afghanistan Campaign Medal with two campaign stars, according to the News.
Caughman billed himself as a bottle recycler who loved to get celebrity autographs, according to his Twitter account.
His account is filled with photos of him beside celebrities such as Oprah, Michael K. Williams and Russell Simmons and their autographs
@NBCNightlyNews I met David Rockefeller and got his autograph a good man rest in peace ☺✌david— timothy caughman (@timrock715) March 21, 2017
Mayor Bill de Blasio called the killing an "unspeakable human tragedy" and an assault on the fabric of the city.
"The NYPD has put the alleged perpetrator behind bars where he belongs," the mayor said in a statement. "Now it’s our collective responsibility to speak clearly and forcefully in the face of intolerance and violence — here or across the country. 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.”