A judge has denied bond for a white University of Maryland student accused of fatally stabbing a young black student at a campus bus stop.
Sean Christopher Urbanski, 22, of Severna Park, Maryland, is charged with murder in the death early Saturday of Richard Collins III, 23, a recently commissioned US Army second lieutenant who was due to graduate this week from nearby Bowie State University.
Urbanski is a member of a Facebook group called “Alt-Reich,” which spews hatred toward minorities “and especially African-Americans,” University of Maryland Police Chief David Mitchell said.
Given that evidence, the FBI is assisting the investigation as officials try to determine whether the incident was a hate crime, the agency announced.
While denying Urbanski bond on Monday, Maryland District Judge Patrice E. Lewis called him “an absolute danger to the community.”
A promising life ends in bizarre encounter
Collins was just three days away from graduating from Bowie State when he went to visit friends at the University of Maryland, the police chief said.
About 3 a.m. Saturday, Collins and his friends were approached by Urbanski, police said.
Urbanski started yelling bizarre commands at Collins, witnesses said, according to police.
“He said to the victim, ‘Step left, step left if you know what’s good for you,'” the witnesses said, according to the police chief.
“The victim looked at him puzzled with the other friends of his and said ‘No,'” Mitchell said. “It was then that (the suspect) stabbed the victim in his chest.”
Collins fell backward, Mitchell said. His friends tried to help him before university officers arrived and performed CPR, he said. Collins was pronounced dead at a hospital.
Urbanski has been charged with first- and second-degree murder as well as first-degree assault. At a bond hearing, Urbanski’s attorney, William C. Brennan Jr., argued his client was intoxicated at the time of the alleged crime. Brennan declined to comment after court.
Maryland State Attorney Angela D. Alsobrooks told reporters on Monday that authorities will consider every angle in the investigation, as with all cases.
“Whether or not it’s a hate crime is one of those angles that will be considered,” she said. “I can tell you that at this early stage in this investigation, we do not have enough evidence to say conclusively whether this is a hate crime.”
She said the priority is first completing the homicide investigation before the FBI could determine whether the stabbing is a hate crime, meaning it could be prosecuted on the federal level.
Alsobrooks said: “We assure you that we will work until we get it right, until we have answers to provide to this community.”
She said authorities “need something probably more than just a Facebook posting” for the killing to be considered a hate crime.
‘Alt-Reich’ group now offline
Central to the FBI deciding whether the incident could have been a hate crime is the “Alt-Reich” Facebook page.
“When I looked at the information that’s contained on that website … it’s despicable,” Mitchell said.
“It shows extreme bias against women, Latinos, members of the Jewish faith and especially African-Americans, which brings up questions as to the motive of this case,” he said.
Mitchell said Sunday authorities have not seen a post from Urbanski on the Facebook page, “however, that doesn’t mean it’s not there,” he said.
The Facebook page has since been taken offline.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate crimes and hate groups, said it had not heard of “Alt-Reich” before the Maryland killing.
In recent months, there has been a jump in racist groups naming themselves variations of the term “alt-right,” said Heidi Beirich, director of the SPLC’s Intelligence Project.
Grief across two campuses
Collins will be honored Monday evening at a vigil on Bowie State’s campus.
“As we struggle to deal with our emotions, let’s find appropriate ways to express our sorrow and hope for justice,” Bowie State University President Mickey Burnim said in a statement.
“Let’s remember our words and actions have the power to heal and the power to hurt. Let’s strive to use our actions to bring comfort and peace.”
About 10 miles west of Bowie, the killing has “shocked, saddened, and angered our community and beyond,” University of Maryland President Wallace Loh said.
Security has ramped up, with extra police patrols on and off campus and 24-hour video monitoring, he said.
“However, increased police security is not sufficient,” Loh said. “We must all do more to nurture a climate — on campus and beyond — where we stand against hate, we fight against hate crimes, and we reaffirm the values that define us a university and as a democracy.”
‘Already’ someone great
Alsobrooks said Collins was “a person who represented in every way possible the very best of this community.”
“He was already a person who had accomplished so much, more than many of us will accomplish in a whole lifetime,” she said. “And so, it was not just the case that he was going to be somebody great.
“I want it to be painfully clear that he already was.”