The FBI is investigating whether the stabbing of a visiting black student by a white student at the University of Maryland was a hate crime, officials said Sunday. Sean Christopher Urbanski has been charged with first- and second-degree murder as well as first-degree assault in the early Saturday morning attack that killed Richard Collins III, police said.
University of Maryland Police Chief David Mitchell said he asked the FBI to assist in the investigation after learning that Urbanski, 22, belonged to a Facebook group called “Alt-Reich: Nation,” where members post disparaging material about African Americans and others.
“We are here to evaluate that as an ongoing concern with respect to whether or not this was a hate crime,” Gordon Johnson, special agent in charge of the FBI field office in Baltimore, told reporters at a news conference. No attorney was listed for Urbanski on online court records and a message left at a number listed for his home in Severna Park was not immediately returned Sunday.
Collins, 23, who was set to graduate from Bowie State on Tuesday, was visiting friends at the College Park campus when he was stabbed. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the US Army days earlier, Mitchell said. Officials say Collins was with two friends near a bus stop on campus around 3 a.m. when they heard Urbanski screaming and watched him approach them.
Urbanski said, “Step left, step left if you know what’s best for you,” according to the charging documents. Collins said “no” before Urbanski stabbed him once in the chest, the documents say. Mitchell, the police chief, said the attack has spread fear across the university.
“If I’m a person of color I would certainly look at this as something that could happen to me. In fact, I know on Facebook our students are saying that,” Mitchell said. Dr. Artie Lee Travis, vice president for student affairs at Bowie State, said the school hopes the investigation moves forward as quickly as possible.
“Hate has no place in America,” Travis said. “Hate has no place on a college campus, where young minds are coming together to try to change the world,” he said. Brian Douglas, who recently became close to Collins when they took a class together, said the man was looking forward to graduation.
“He was just nice, just a good, young man all around. You can’t find those too often in today’s society,” Douglas said. Ciera Sorrell, who also took a class with Collins, said his killing shocked the Bowie State community.
“Everyone is in disbelief,” she said. “He seemed so excited to get to live his life and he doesn’t have that chance anymore,” she said.
The attack came as the University of Maryland hosted visitors for graduation festivities. During Sunday’s graduation ceremony, School President Wallace Loh led students and their families in a moment of silence for the slain Bowie State student. Loh called it a “senseless and unprovoked assault,” The Baltimore Sun reported.
“We are still in shock that a young man, so full of promise, should have his life cut short, so suddenly,” Loh said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends, and with the entire Bowie State University community.”