COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Authorities appeal for patience of two college communities react in shock, fear and anger after a white of the University of Maryland student was arrested in what the police called the unprovoked stabbing of a black Bowie State University student.
The police and the FBI said they are investigating the killing of Richard Collins III as a possible hate crime because the suspect, Sean Urbanski, was a member of a racist Facebook group several months ago.
Collins’ classmates at Bowie State organized a wake in memory of the Monday evening.
“I know that people have to hurt,” Police chief Hank Stawinski said. “I know that there are people with the drawing of conclusions. I know that social media is moving in its own way.
“But I question if the head of the Police in Prince George’s County … that we take a break and let all these researchers to do their work. They know with a certainty what lies behind this, but we are not there yet.”
Authorities say that Urbanski, who was denied bond Monday on his first hearing was drunk at the time of slaughter early Saturday. The police are awaiting the results of the drug tests.
Attorney William C. Brennan argued that since the 22-year-old had no criminal record, he may live at home with a GPS monitor and receive alcohol abuse treatment while his case moves forward. The judge denied, for now.
Collins, 23, who was visiting at the College Park campus, had just been appointed second lieutenant in the U.S. Army and would have graduated Tuesday from Bowie State.
Lt.-Col. Joel Thomas, who runs the ROTC unit in Bowie Is described Collins as intelligent, athletic, handsome and with all the ingredients of an excellent military leader.
“Richard cared deeply about his friends, cared deeply about others and he was exactly what we are looking for as we select officers for the United States Army,” Thomas said.
The dead roiled both campuses, which are close to each other in the Maryland suburbs of the capital of the country. Bowie State, a historically black school, means the start Tuesday in the same stadium on the College Park campus, where Maryland held the ceremony of Sunday.
“If I were a person of color, I would definitely see this as something that could happen to me. In fact, I know on Facebook our students to say that,” the University of Maryland police chief David Mitchell said.
Gordon Johnson, who runs the FBI office in Baltimore, answered Mitchell’s call for assistance in the investigation into the stabbing as a possible hate crime after authorities learned that Urbanski was added to the “Alt-Reich: Nation” Facebook group by an administrator in February.
The group, which was taken after the stitches, had about 1,100 members and included racist, sexist and anti-Semitic pictures and messages. The police said Sunday that they have not found the messages of Urbanski in the group.
“If the evidence leads to the conclusion that this is a hate crime, then we will not hesitate therefore handle as such,” Prince George’s County State Attorney Angela Alsobrooks said at a press conference.
She said that she understands people’s concerns, but it is too early to draw conclusions, and the prosecutor “should probably be something more than a Facebook post.”
Officials said Collins was with two friends waiting for an Uber ride of about 3 hours when she heard Urbanski scream and saw him approach.
Urbanski said, “Step left to left, step left to left if you know what is best for you,” according to the charging documents. Collins said ‘no’ and Urbanski stabbed him once in the chest, the documents say.
The officials Urbanski, sitting on a bench about 50 yards from where Collins collapsed, with a knife in his front right pocket, the documents say.
Urbanski has appeared for Monday’s hearing of the prison via a television feed. The judge said that his bond request can be revised later. His lawyer and the parents left without comment. A message left at his home number in Severna Park, was not immediately returned.
A 2013 graduate of Severna Park High School, Urbanski made the honor roll in the 11th grade, according to reports in the media. Urbanski was not scheduled to graduate at the University of Maryland this year, according to police.
Zach Lessner, who was in a bowling league with him, said that he had not expected that Urbanski “would be the person to commit this horrific act.”
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said in a statement on Facebook Monday that the person responsible “should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”
“Violence and hatred has no place in our society and will never be tolerated,” he said.
White reported from Bowie. Video-Journalist Rick Gentilo contributed to this report from College Park, and Alanna durkin Richer contribution of Richmond, Virginia.