Richard Collins III, who was stabbed to death in a random attack at the University of Maryland, was remembered as a “kind soul” who was commissioned into the U.S. Army only two days before.
The suspect in Collins’ unprovoked murder, Sean Urbanski, is a college student who was a member of a racist Facebook group called the “Alt Reich: Nation,” in which members post mocking references to Anne Frank and blacks, police said. Collins was black, and Urbanski, who was arrested at the scene, is white. The murder is being investigated as a possible hate crime, although the motive has not been definitively determined.
“Sean Urbanski is a member of a group on Facebook, perhaps other places that we are looking at,” the campus police chief, David Mitchell, alleged. “The name of the group is Alt Reich.” He described the page as “despicable” and full of bias, especially toward blacks. In contrast, officials lauded Collins as a young man who had stepped forward to serve his country. Mitchell said he wished he could have had the honor of “shaking hands” with Second Lt. Collins.
The murder of the young soldier, who was a 23-year-old senior at Bowie State University on the verge of graduation, has horrified the community, and the FBI has been called in to investigate. Urbanski, 22, was a student at the University of Maryland. Officials from both universities pledged to find justice for Collins and expressed sorrow and grief.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Collins Was Waiting for an Uber With Friends at a Bus Stop When He Was Stabbed
All Collins was doing when he was attacked was waiting for an Uber ride with some friends. He was on the University of Maryland campus visiting friends, the chief said.
The shuttles had stopped running, so the friends waited at the bus stop for the car to arrive, reports NBC Washington. That’s when the suspect, Urbanski, is accused of running forth and stabbing Collins, who was a random stranger to him.
Collins stood up to the attacker, the chief said in a news conference. When Urbanski said, “Step left, step left if you know what’s best for you,” Collins looked puzzled and then responded no, according to the campus police chief.
“He was yelling, perhaps screaming,” the police chief said of the suspect. The slaying was captured on surveillance video.
Urbanski is accused of using a 3-4 inch silver knife to stab Collins a single time in the chest, reports the television station. Fox 5 referred to the murder as a “random and unprovoked attack.”
Dr. Artie Lee Travis, vice president of student affairs for the campus, said in a news conference that it was a “sad day for Bowie State University.” Bowie State is a public university located in Maryland.
“Hate has no place in America,” he said. “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’re not here…it is an alleged hate crime. I wish we could call on the leaders of this nation to do whatever they can to eliminate all messages of hate.”
Officials said that students on both campuses are afraid in the wake of the murder. Urbanski was charged with murder and was being held in the jail without bond, the police chief said.
“If you want to harm our students, you will have to go through us,” Chief Mitchell said, pledging to restore a sense of security for students. He said there hadn’t been a homicide on the University of Maryland campus for decades.
2. Collins Was Days From Graduation & Only Recently Commissioned to Serve in the U.S. Army
Collins had a bright future ahead of him, and he was about to realize many dreams. Again and again, officials at the news conference on his murder praised his desire to serve.
He would have graduated on May 23 from Bowie State University. “He was due to walk across the stage…this coming Tuesday,” the police chief said.
According to Fox 5 DC, Collins “was recently commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army.” Family members had posted photos of him in uniform as recently as May 18.
The Baltimore Sun reports that Collins “had been in ROTC in college and had just been commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army’s intelligence division on Thursday” May 18.
Collins had shared photos of himself holding ROTC commendations. “He was someone who was going to defend this country and this flag,” Travis said.
“Bowie State University is mourning,” he added.
The stabbing death occurred around 3 a.m. early Saturday, May 20.
3. Friends & Officials Remembered Collins as a ‘Kind Soul’ & ‘National Treasure’
The special agent in charge of the FBI’s Baltimore field office, Gordon Johnson, said in a news conference that Collins should be remembered as a “national treasure.” He added that people should remember that Collins “was someone who raised his right hand to support and defend the Constitution of the United States as an officer in the United States Army. That means he was one who vowed to support and defend all of us. We should never forget that.”
One man wrote on Facebook, “…we may not have spoken that often lately but you were definitely a friend, a friendly face, and a kind soul. You'll be missed dearly by the Bowie State University community #BulldogNation has gained another angel. Rest easy bro.”
Maurice Gatling, director of retention at Bowie State University, wrote that Collins was his “mentee,” and added, “It is always hard to lose a student to a senseless death. I feel honored and blessed to have known 2nd Lieutenant Richard Collins. Rest in Peace and may your light forever shine….”
Collins chillingly wrote “I’m dead” in a post on Facebook on May 17, but it was a joke about a meme someone had posted. He wrote in March, “I’m proud to live in a country with a hard nose leader who understands it is imperative to protect American interests first.” He also wrote about Mother’s Day, Easter, Syria, made jokes, and mentioned his awards – altogether, his was a typical Facebook page of a young man with a lot of life left to live.
4. Collins Had Worked at WalMart & as a Golf Course Groundskeeper
On Facebook, Collins wrote that he was an “Ares god of War at United States Army” who had worked as a “former Groundskeeper at Chesapeake Hills Golf Club” and “Former Average Joe at Walmart.”
“Here at Walmart 5345, We knew Richard as Rice,” Anna Usumi recalled to Heavy. “Always had that big smile and was willing to help out where needed. Always in his khaki shorts white socks and boat shoes. He had a drive that you just knew he was destined for greatness.”
Collins also wrote that he had “studied Rocket Science and Brain Surgery at University,” lived in Owings, Maryland, and was from Chesapeake, Virginia. The rocket science and brain surgery reference was a joke. He was actually in business school.
“The College of Business has been blessed and privileged to share time and space with 2nd Lieutenant Richard NineIron Collins! We love you and will miss you. Rest In Peace Bro!,” said a post on the college’s Facebook page.
5. Urbanski Is Accused of Being Part of a Hate Group That Refers to Itself as the Alt Reich
Urbaski’s membership in an Alt Reich Facebook group is part of what prompted authorities to contemplate a hate crime motive, reports NBC Washington.
Posts on the group’s page by other people make vile references to blacks and Jews, even bringing up Anne Frank, who died in the Holocaust. A lot of the references on the group are sexual in nature. The page, which had just over 1,400 members, and was in part devoted to memes, has now been deleted.
The page even contains a recent post that makes a joke about an Uber ride that was made after Collins was murdered. Its moderator was not Urbanski, and it’s not clear why he joined the group or how actively he participated in it. On May 8, a person posted on the group’s page, “So we an anti liberal with side of booty and klan group?”
Mitchell, the police chief, said in the news conference, “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.”
He added: “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.”
According to the Urban Dictionary, the term Alt Reich is “an Intentional play on the word ‘Altreich,’ which is an actual German word meaning Old Empire and can refer to Germany’s pre-WWI territories or even it’s territories as the Holy Roman Empire, i.e. the countries Hitler tried to take back.” There is debate on social media about whether the “alt reich” is a more openly racist subset of the “alt right.”
However, authorities have stopped short of definitively saying the suspect was motivated by Collins’ race and did not immediately indicate that the slaying was a hate crime for sure; that’s still under investigation. According to the Baltimore Sun, witnesses described Urbanski allegedly acting “intoxicated and incoherent” at the scene, where he was arrested as Collins lay fatally wounded in the street.
The chief called the FBI in to, in part, help with technical assistance in the investigation. Johnson said that a determination of motive must be done “with the totality of the circumstances…we will look at all of the evidence in totality.” However, the FBI is evaluating whether or not the murder was a hate crime, he said.
According to his LinkedIn page, Urbanski is a Kinesiology major at the University of Maryland, whose mother works for the University of Maryland as the college’s associate director of financial aid for its University College and whose father is a safety manager for a defense contractor.