This much we do know: A white University of Maryland student is accused of fatally stabbing a black student who was visiting campus.
What we don’t know is whether the suspect, who police say is a member of a Facebook group called Alt Reich, committed a hate crime.
But the university’s police chief said the online group’s content is disturbing.
“When I looked at information contained on website, it’s despicable,” said David 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.”
Now, the FBI is helping investigate whether the killing should be prosecuted as a hate crime.
A promising life ends in bizarre encounter
Victim Richard Collins III was just three days away from graduating from Bowie State University when he went to visit friends at the University of Maryland, the police chief said.
Collins had more than just his graduation to celebrate — the 23-year-old had just been commissioned as a lieutenant in the US Army.
At about 3 a.m. Saturday morning, Collins and his friends were approached by the suspect, Sean Christopher Urbanski, police said. The Bowie State University president said Collins and his friends were standing at a bus stop.
According to witnesses, Urbanski started yelling bizarre commands at Collins.
“He then said, ‘step left, step left if you know what’s good for you,'” the witnesses recalled, 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 backwards and was helped by his friends before university officers arrived and performed CPR, Mitchell said. He was taken to a hospital but was pronounced dead.
Urbanski has been charged with first and second degree murder as well as first degree assault. As of Monday morning, it was not clear whether the 22-year-old had an attorney.
Grief across two campuses
Collins will be honored Monday evening at a vigil at the Bowie State University 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 L. Burnim wrote 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, University of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh said the killing has “shocked, saddened, and angered our community and beyond.”
He said security has been ramped up, with extra police patrols on and off campus and 24-hour video monitoring.
“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.”