A white supremacist from Baltimore has pleaded guilty to fatally stabbing a black man in New York with a sword — a crime officials say was the first of many attacks on black people he had planned before turning himself in to authorities.

James Jackson, 30, pleaded guilty to six counts, including murder and a hate crime charge, in the killing of Timothy Caughman in March 2017 with a Roman short sword, The Associated Press reported.

Jackson told detectives he'd travelled to New York "for the purpose of killing black men," a criminal complaint revealed.

Police at the time said Jackson, who is a military veteran, picked New York because it's "the media capital of the world" and he "wanted to make a statement."

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He travelled to the city from Baltimore via bus and stayed at a Midtown hotel for a few days before wandering through Manhattan.

"That's true," Jackson replied to Judge Laura Ward this week when asked if he carried a sword and two knives as he stalked potential victims, AP reports.

Jackson would ultimately target 66-year-old Caughman, a self-described bottle-and-can recycler who was sifting through trash when he was stabbed multiple times.

Caughman went to a police station for help after the attack and was taken to a hospital, where he died.

Jackson may face life in prison without the possibility of parole after his guilty plea. He is scheduled to be sentenced February 13.

He turned himself in after killing Caughman, telling officers in a Times Square police substation that he was wanted for murder and recognised his own photo in news reports.

Police said Jackson gave statements indicating that the attack was "clearly" racially motivated.

His long-standing feelings of resentment toward black men were further clarified in the criminal complaint, which says Jackson "was angered by black men mixing with white women."

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In a jailhouse interview published in the New York Daily News shortly after the killing, Jackson said he hoped his attack would deter white women from entering romantic relationships with black men.

"It's well over 10 years that he's been harbouring these feelings of hate towards male blacks," Assistant Police Chief William Aubry said.

The complaint further alleged that Jackson considered Caughman's killing to be "practice" before he went to Times Square, where he planned to kill more black men.

James Jackson, right, confers with his lawyer during a hearing in criminal court. Photo / AP
James Jackson, right, confers with his lawyer during a hearing in criminal court. Photo / AP

Jackson told the Daily News that he felt some regret after the attack because he didn't know Caughman was elderly. Instead, he told the newspaper, he would have preferred to kill "a young thug" or "a successful older black man" who was with a blonde woman.

He claims he had his first racist thoughts at age 3, ideas that later proliferated as he spent time on racist websites.

Cyrus Vance, the district attorney for Manhattan, said in a statement after the killing that Jackson had "acted on his plan, randomly selecting a beloved New Yorker solely on the basis of his skin colour, and stabbing him repeatedly and publicly on a midtown street corner."

Numerous public officials spoke out against the hateful act.

Democratic New York Mayor Bill de Blasio issued a statement calling the killing "more than an unspeakable human tragedy" and an assault on the city's "inclusiveness and our diversity."

Jackson was in the Army for more than three years, deploying to Afghanistan between December 2010 and November 2011, an Army representative told The Post in 2017.

His service record did not include badges reflecting combat interaction with any enemy during that time. Jackson served as a military intelligence analyst and left the service in August 2012, having reached the rank of specialist.

Frederick Sosinsky, one of Jackson's attorneys, told the judge this week that detectives who had no involvement in the case interviewed his client weeks ago without notifying defence lawyers, the AP reports.

Sosinsky said the interview was "shocking to the conscience" and a violation of state and federal laws.

Vance said he would investigate the apparent unauthorised interview, the New York Post reported.

However, he also called the plea — New York's first prosecution under the "murder as a crime of terrorism" statute — a landmark conviction, AP reported.

"This was more than a murder case," Vance said outside the courtroom. "This was a type of cruelty that needs to be treated with the most serious of our laws."