The FBI is assisting in the murder investigation of a Bowie State University student to determine whether his stabbing death was a hate crime, authorities said Sunday.
A 22-year-old University of Maryland student has been charged in Saturday’s deadly knife attack that left Richard W. Collins III, 23, dead.
Sean Christopher Urbanski, of Severna Park, Md., was charged with first- and second-degree murder and first-degree assault in what police called a “totally unprovoked” attack.
He is being held without bond.
Urbanski is white and Collins is African American. Authorities said the hate crime investigation stems from Urbanski’s involvement in an online Facebook group that posts racist and other inflammatory material. The FBI is providing “technical support” to help determine if this was a hate crime, FBI special agent Gordon Johnson said at a news conference Sunday night.
Collins had been visiting the College Park campus when the incident occurred, and authorities said surveillance cameras captured the attack. Police said Collins was with two friends, waiting for an Uber along Regents Drive near Montgomery Hall about 3 a.m.
U-Md. Police Chief David B. Mitchell said Collins and his friends watched as Urbanski approached the group. Urbanski said “step left, step left if you know what’s best for you.” Collins said “no.” Urbanski attacked.
Collins was stabbed in the chest. He died at a hospital.
Urbanski fled but was arrested a short time later by Prince George’s County police, Mitchell said. The victim’s friends identified Urbanski as the attacker.
Police said they recovered a folding knife. They said Urbanski, who lives off campus nearby, had been drinking and it is still to be determined if he was under the influence of any other drugs.
They said he had no previous record or problems at U-Md.
Maryland lawyer William C. Brennan, who has been retained to represent Urbanski, declined to comment.
The Rev. Darryl L. Godlock, pastor at Calvert County Baptist Church in Prince Frederick, Md., said Collins, of Calvert County, was slated to graduate Tuesday.
“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 Godlock, who is serving as a family spokesman.
Godlock said Collins, who was visiting friends at U-Md., was a member of the Bowie ROTC and was airborne certified. Last week, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army in the intelligence branch.
“Richie was a fun, loving young man,” Godlock said. “He loved his family and he loved his God.”
A U-Md. spokeswoman could not provide details about Urbanski’s academic status Sunday.
The attack has shaken students and officials at U-Md. and Bowie State, where students are wrapping up the semester and preparing for commencement ceremonies.
“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. They can’t change the world if they are not here,” said Artie L. Travis, vice president for student affairs at Bowie State. “We are looking forward to the quickest investigation as possible.”
The university plans to hold a vigil for Collins on Monday night.
U-Md. President Wallace D. Loh remembered Collins in a message to his school’s community Sunday. “We are still in shock that a young man, so full of promise, should have his life cut short, so suddenly,” Loh said.
Loh, who called the incident a “horrific tragedy,” led graduates and their families in a moment of silence during commencement ceremonies Sunday at Xfinity Center.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends, and with the entire Bowie State University community.
“We want to get to the heart of this matter,” Loh said later. “It is number one, it is justice for Second Lieutenant Collins. Number two, the sense of safety. Our students, our faculty, our staff are understandably concerned and apprehensive.”
U-Md., along with other schools in Washington region, has been the scene of other racially charged incidents in recent months, including at least three cases in which white supremacist fliers were found on the College Park campus. “It is your civic duty to report any and all illegal aliens,” one flier said. “They are criminals. America is a white nation.”
University officials promised swift action to deal with threats.
“Anyone who feels empowered by what happen, the only thing I can say is that if you want to harm our students, you are going to have to go through us,” Mitchell said at Sunday’s news conference. “We are not going to tolerate any harm brought to our students. Not on my campus. Not on my watch.”
The news also rattled some of Urbanski’s friends from his small home town in Anne Arundel County.
“He wasn’t a violent person in school. He was what we would call ‘normal,’ wasn’t popular but wasn’t an outcast, either,” said Darrian Johnson, a high school classmate. “He had an abundance of friends seeing as how Severna Park is such a small community. Now as far as what pushed him to do the things he’s accused of I wouldn’t know.”
A bond hearing for Urbanski is scheduled for Monday.
Lynh Bui contributed to this report.