The man who fatally stabbed a 23-year-old Black man in 2017 was sentenced to life in prison Thursday.
Sean Urbanski, 25, apologized in court for killing 23-year-old Richard Collins III at a bus stop in 2017. He told the victim’s parents minutes before learning his sentence, that he would go back and switch places with Collins if he could.
On the night of the May 2017 stabbing, Collins was just three days away from graduating from Bowie State University and was visiting the University of Maryland College Park campus to celebrate. The newly commissioned second lieutenant in the Army was at a bus stop on the university’s campus with two friends, an Asian woman and a white man, at around 3 a.m. when an approaching Urbanski told him “Step left, step left if you know what’s best for you.”
When Collins replied, “No,” Urbanski stabbed him in the chest with a three-inch blade. Prosecutors claimed Urbanski singled Collins out because of his race, but hate crime charges against the attacker were dismissed in 2019 before his first-degree murder conviction.
Urbanski was a member of the alt-right Facebook group “Alt-Reich: Nation” and had at least six racist memes saved to his phone.
“There hasn’t been a day that’s gone by where I haven’t thought about what I’ve done to you, and if I could switch places with your son I would in a heartbeat,” Urbanski told Dawn and Richard Collins Jr. pduring Thursday’s virtual hearing.
Circuit Court Judge Lawrence Hill Jr., who dismissed the hate crime charges against Urbanski, acknowledged that race played a role in the attack.
“Race is always amongst us in the things we do and things we say,” he said.
The judge ruled that prosecutors had not presented sufficient evidence to warrant allowing the jury to deliberate on a hate crime charge.
The ruling happened before Maryland strengthened its hate crime law so prosecutors don’t have to prove hate is the only motivating factor in committing a crime. The change expanded the law to apply to crimes motivated “either in whole or in substantial” by race and other factors.
Urbanski was a student at the University of Maryland during the time of the attack, and had been drinking prior to the incident. Urbanksi’s attorneys said their client’s attack on Collins was motivated by the drinking. The two students did not know each other.
The judge denied the state’s request for a life sentence without the possibility of parole. “Both their lives ended that night,” Hill said. Urbanski could be eligible for parole after 15 years.
“With the passage of time, we have come to the realization that racist hate was the murderer’s only motivation for killing our son,” Richard Collins Jr. said Thursday. After his death, Collins received an honorary promotion to first lieutenant in the Army.