Twenty-three-year-old Richard Collins III, a student at Bowie State University, was fatally stabbed on Saturday, May 20. The suspect is 22-year-old Sean Christopher Urbanski, a University of Maryland student who is alleged to have been a member of a Facebook racist hate group called “Alt-Reich: Nation.”
According to the University of Maryland Police Department (UMPD), at roughly 3:05 a.m. Urbanski approached Richard Collins from behind near Montgomery Hall on the university campus. UMPD Chief David Mitchell said that Urbanski had never met Richard Collins and that the suspect “approached and, totally unprovoked, stabbed the victim in the chest.”
Collins was immediately rushed to a nearby hospital, having suffered multiple stab wounds to the chest. Collins was later pronounced dead after receiving unsuccessful medical attention, according to NBC Washington.
Police Chief David Mitchell told reporters that Urbanski approached Richard Collins from behind and said, “step left, step left if you know what’s good for you.” Collins refused to acquiesce to the request, and that is when the suspect stabbed him in the chest.
Charging docs: suspect said "Step left, step left if you know what's best for you" Victim said "no" then was stabbed pic.twitter.com/82Vb76jT0P
— Darcy Spencer (@darcyspencer) May 21, 2017
Campus surveillance cameras managed to capture the incident, which assisted police in determining the order of events. According to Mitchell, the suspect was carrying a folding knife that was later discarded by Urbanski.
Richard Collins has been accompanied by two friends, an Asian female, and a white male, according to police. The friends of Collins later served as witnesses to assist the police.
The suspect fled the scene of the crime but was soon apprehended by UMPD officers and taken into custody. According to the police, “witnesses positively identified the individual as the male who assaulted the victim.”
Police have so far been reluctant to confirm a motive for the attack. However, they did note that the suspect is white and the victim was black. Mitchell added that the fact above did not make it immediately apparent that the murder was racially motivated.
Richard Collins was about to graduate.
— Becky Gitonga (@beckygitonga) May 23, 2017
Evidence soon emerged that Urbanski was a member of a white supremacist group on Facebook. As such, the F.B.I has joined the investigation and has committed to determining whether the attack was indeed a hate crime. During a press conference, Mitchell said that his decision to involve the F.B.I. was motivated by the revelations regarding Urbanski’s membership of the hate-group.
The name of the group the suspect belonged to was “Alt-Reich: Nation.” Mitchell confirmed that members of the group self-identified as white supremacists and mainly posted offensive content that expressed bias against African-Americans, amongst others.
“When I looked at the information that’s contained on that website, suffice it to say that it’s despicable, it shows extreme bias against women, Latinos, members of the Jewish faith and especially African Americans. Which brings up questions as to the motive in this case. Knowing that we will continue to look for digital evidence, among other items of evidentiary value.”
The “Alt-Reich: Nation” Facebook group was deleted late on Sunday, but not before a few screengrabs were captured by Facebook users.
— Natalie Roth (@natalieroth) May 22, 2017
@JeremyAEllis @tracie_bowles @IBurnedMyFinger @mlanger @hearthetin @jaketapper Alt-Reich (aka: alt-right) = avowedly political movement to restore white rule; they've openly said it. No mind reading needed.
— jeffery hobson (@jefferyhhobson) May 22, 2017
@facebook Why do you allow racist groups such as Alt-Reich nation to exist??? And how can you allow revenge porn sites too??where r filters
— Glen (@gbillups2) May 22, 2017
Gabriel Johnson, a senior officer of the Maryland and Delaware FBI Division, noted that it was not common for the F.B.I. to get involved in the investigation of a possible hate crime this early on, and added that the offense evaluation “has to be done with the totality of the circumstances.”
“We will wait to make a final determination when the homicide investigation is completed. We are here to evaluate that as an ongoing concern.”
A public affairs specialist in the Baltimore F.B.I. office, Dave Fitz, said that a range of forensic techniques would first need to be employed before they could “recommend hate crime charges.”
Some social media users have called the murder of Richard Collins a lynching, which means “to put to death (as by hanging) by mob action without legal approval or permission.” The term has significant meaning in the South of American, where during the 19th and 20th centuries many thousands of African-Americans were publicly executed by means of a lynching.
A Lynching on the University of Maryland Campus Richard Collins III was killed Saturday night because of the color of his skin. Dave Zirin pic.twitter.com/ZlfS133shp
— Dr.Annam.Grabowski (@StopIllatosut) May 23, 2017
Manchester, the lynching of Richard W. Collins III, trumps budget plan, comey's firing, Chechnya – the pendulum has swing too damn far
— miss jane (@janthegurl) May 23, 2017
There was an lynching at the University of Maryland on Saturday. Richard Collins III was killed for his race.
— Marj (@MarjMellow) May 23, 2017
Since the inauguration of Donald Trump as president, the University of Maryland campus has been riddled with acts of racism, including chalkings, nooses, flyers, and death threats.
Meanwhile, prosecutors are urging patience while the investigation continues, adding that it was too early to call the murder a hate crime.
Angela Alsobrooks, Prince George’s County State’s Attorney, said that investigators were currently exploring a range of possible motives for the killing of Richard Collins. Alsobrooks was speaking after a local judge denied a request for Urbanski to be released from custody under specific conditions.
William C. Brennan, the defense attorney representing Urbanski, argued that his client has “no prior criminal record” and should be allowed to live at home while the investigation continues. Brennan said that his client would commit to wearing a GPS monitoring system and going for alcohol abuse treatment.
The judge denied all of Mr. Bennan’s requests, and Urbanski will remain behind bars for the time being.
At the time of his death, Richard Collins III had been involved in intense military training in the ROTC unit at the University of Maryland. According to one of Collins’ instructors, Lt. Col. Joel Thomas, the young officer was pegged to become “an outstanding leader in the U.S. Army.”
Thomas added that Collins was “intelligent, athletic, and personable.”
Richard Collins had only recently officially become a member of the U.S. Army as a 2nd Lieutenant.
[Featured Image by U.S. Army/AP Images]