The FBI is investigating the murder of a Bowie State University student to determine whether his stabbing death was a hate crime, authorities said Sunday, May 21.
University of Maryland student Sean Christopher Urbanski, 22, has been charged with first- and second-degree murder for the fatal knife attack that left 23-year-old Richard W. Collins III dead, The Washington Post reported. Urbanski was also charged with first-degree assault for what police described as a “totally unprovoked” attack.
He’s currently being held without bond.
At a press conference Sunday, University of Maryland Police Chief David Mitchell said he sought the FBI’s assistance after discovering that Urbanski was part of white nationalist Facebook group called “Alt Reich: Nation,” where members posted offensive and racially charged remarks. Urbanski is white and Collins was African-American.
“Suffice it to say that it’s despicable,” Mitchell said. “It shows extreme bias against women, Latinos, members of the Jewish faith and especially African-Americans.”
Special agent Gordon Johnson added that the FBI would provide assistance “to evaluate that as an ongoing concern with respect to whether or not [Collins’ murder] was a hate crime.”
Collins, a senior at nearby Bowie State University, was recently commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army and was set to graduate Tuesday, May 23, his family members told News4 Washington. The ROTC member was visiting friends at UM on Saturday night when the deadly attack occurred.
Citing surveillance video of the incident, police said Collins and two friends were waiting for their Uber to arrive outside Montgomery Hall around 3 a.m. Police Chief Mitchell said Collins and his friends watched as Urbanski approached them. Urbanski ordered the group to “step left, step left if you know what’s best for you.” Collins refused and that’s when the white man attacked, stabbing Collins in the chest.
The Bowie State student later died the hospital.
“The parents are totally devastated that their young son, that was at the peak of his career about to take off, and his life was taken away senselessly,” said Rev. Darryl L. Godlock, who’s serving as a spokesman for the Collins’ family. “Richie was a fun, loving young man.” “He loved his family and he loved his God.”
Urbanski fled the scene but was quickly apprehended by Prince George’s County police, Mitchell said. Collins’ friends had identified the UM student as the attacker.
Police said they recovered a folding knife and determined that Urbanski had been drinking. It’s unclear if he was under the influence of any other drugs at the time.
Collins’ murder has since sparked fear among students at both Maryland universities, especially among nonwhite students.
“If I’m a person of color, I would certainly look at this as something that could happen to me,” Mitchell said, adding that police have ramped up patrols on and around the UM’s campus. “In fact, I know on Facebook our students are saying that.”
Artie Lee Travis, vice president for student affairs at Bowie State, said the university is in mourning.
“We are looking forward to the quickest investigation possible,” Travis said. “Hate has no place in America. Hate has no place on a college campus where young minds are coming together to try to change the world.”
The Baltimore Sun reported that the deadly stabbing is the latest in a string of racially charged incidents at UM in the past few months. For one, a noose was found at a frat house earlier this month and fliers promoting white nationalism also were seen posted around the campus.
“On behalf of our entire community, I want to express our profound sorrow and anguish for this horrific tragedy,” said UM President Wallace D. Loh, who opened Sunday’s graduation ceremony at the Xfinity Center Sunday with a moment of silence. “We are still in shock that a young man, so full of promise, should have his life cut short so suddenly.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends, and with the entire Bowie State University community.”