A white University of Maryland student accused of fatally stabbing a black student who was visiting the campus has been charged with a hate crime after authorities reviewed his phone and social media activity, prosecutors said.
A Prince George’s County grand jury on Tuesday handed up the hate-crime charge against Sean Urbanski, who already faced a murder count in the May slaying of Richard Collins III.
Urbanski stabbed Collins while he was visiting friends at U-Md. in a “totally unprovoked” attack, police said. Collins had been attending Bowie State University and was days away from graduation when he was slain.
Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks declined to say exactly what evidence of an alleged racial motive was found. But she said federal and local law enforcement officials have been sifting through Urbanski’s phone and other digital devices, as well as his social media activity, and uncovered “lots of digital evidence.” She said Collins’s killing was “unjustified and premeditated.”
The evidence led investigators to conclude that “Lieutenant Collins was murdered because of his race,” Alsobrooks said.
Collins’s slaying sparked national outcry after police announced that they were investigating Urbanski’s connection to a Facebook page called Alt-Reich: Nation. University of Maryland Police Chief David B. Mitchell has said that the content from the page was full of racist and inflammatory material.
Prosecutors at the time said they would move cautiously, waiting for law enforcement officials to more fully review Collins’s digital activity before deciding whether to pursue the case as a hate crime.
Collins and two friends were at a bus stop on the U-Md. campus in College Park on May 20 when Urbanski approached them at around 3 a.m., police said. Urbanski told Collins, “Step left, step left if you know what’s best for you,” according to police charging papers. Collins refused to move, police said. That’s when Urbanski pulled a knife and stabbed Collins, police said.
Urbanski ran from the scene but was quickly found nearby with a folding knife in his pocket, police said.
The entire incident was caught on video, prosecutors said.
Urbanski, 22, of Severna Park, is scheduled to go to trial in January.
Urbanski’s lawyer William C. Brennan did not return a call requesting comment, but at a court hearing earlier this year, Brennan said that drugs and alcohol may have played a role in the case.
Urbanski is in jail and being held without bond.
Alsobrooks said that her office plans to seek the maximum sentence of life in prison without parole if Urbanski is convicted of murder. The charge of “a hate crime resulting in death” carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
“It is our great hope that we will bring peace and healing to the family in the case,” Alsobrooks said.
Collins, 23, had been commissioned into the U.S. Army as a second lieutenant and was set to graduate from Bowie State University just days before he was killed. His family declined to comment Tuesday.
Alsobrooks said that Collins’s family continues to grieve.
“I don’t know that there is anything that can ever be done to really completely heal a wound like this,” Alsobrooks said. “They lost their son three days shy of his graduation. I don’t know if there is any way to make whole the family in this case.”
The incident further heightened racial tensions at U-Md., which had reported several race-based incidents throughout the campus in previous months. The university launched new initiatives aimed at reviewing and improving how it investigates them.
Recently, a man was charged in connection with swastika graffiti found on a garbage can on campus. And campus police last week said that they were investigating three incidents of hate-related graffiti found in a restroom stall.
“The Collins family remains in our thoughts, following their tragic loss last May,” the university said in a statement on Tuesday. “This is especially true today as the prosecution of this senseless crime moves through the criminal justice system.”
Keith L. Alexander contributed to this report.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this story included comments from the family that weren’t approved for publication.