University of Maryland – Hate Crime? – May 2017

College Park, MD

Richard W. Collins III, a graduating senior at Bowie State University in Maryland, was stabbed to death in the early morning hours of May 20, 2017, while waiting for a car to pick him up at the University of Maryland in College Park. Sean Christopher Urbanski, a white student at the College Park campus, was charged with first- and second-degree murder and first-degree assault for his alleged attack on Collins, who was black. The Washington Post reported that the FBI was called in to assist with the investigation of the attack on Collins, in order to determine whether or not the stabbing was a “hate crime.” On July 13, the FBI concluded that they did not have enough evidence to deem it so. Prosecutors are pursuing a life sentence without parole for Urbanski.

Key Figures

Richard W. Collins III was a 23-year-old African-American student about to graduate from Bowie State University, a historically black institution in Maryland. Collins was also an Army lieutenant. He was visiting the College Park campus, and he was waiting for an Uber to take him back to Bowie State with two other friends at 3 am, when Urbanski approached him. The Washington Post reported that Urbanski allegedly said, “step left, step left, if you know what’s best for you,” and Collins replied, “no.” Urbanski then allegedly stabbed him in the chest with a pocket knife, and Collins later died in a hospital from his wounds.

Sean Christopher Urbanski is a student at the University of Maryland’s College Park campus. NPR reported that the crime was being investigated as a hate crime due to Urbanski’s membership in a Facebook group titled “Alt-Reich: Nation.” Heavy reported that members of the Facebook group posted racist memes, and that the group was deleted shortly after the news of the murder broke. It was not clear whether Urbanski was an active member of the group. After his arrest, Urbanski was held without bond, and his lawyer did not respond to questions.

David Mitchell is chief of the University of Maryland Police Department. He stated that Urbanski fled from the scene of the crime, but was arrested nearby soon afterwards by Prince George’s County police. Footage of the attack was recovered from security cameras at a nearby bus stop. Mitchell requested that the FBI investigate the attack as a hate crime, but the Bureau concluded that there was not enough evidence to bring that charge against Urbanski.

Further details

A memorial for Collins was held at Bowie State, and the university’s graduation ceremonies included a moment of silence in his memory.

A high school classmate of Urbanski said that he was not a violent person in school, and that he had a group of friends and could have been considered “normal.”

The Baltimore Sun reported that University of Maryland president Wallace D. Loh stated, “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 as a university and as a democracy.” The article also reported that other incidents on campus included finding a noose in a fraternity house, white supremacist fliers being posted, and anti-immigrant chalking. One flyer read, “It is your civic duty to report any and all illegal aliens. They are criminals. America is a white nation,” reported The Washington Post.

Mitchell said at a news conference, “Anyone who feels empowered by what happened, the only thing I can say is that if you want to harm our students, you are going to have to go through us. We are not going to tolerate any harm brought to our students. Not on my campus. Not on my watch.”

Outcome

No Hate Crime Charges for Urbanski

On July 13, NBC reported that the FBI would not be bringing hate crime charges against Urbanski. Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks stated, “Developing a motive is always a challenging aspect of a case. In this case, and in any other case, you can’t get it wrong.”

External References:

A stabbing in College Park, The Baltimore Sun

Sean Urbanski: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know, Heavy

FBI investigating possible hate crime at University of Maryland: What is the ‘Alt Reich: Nation’ Facebook group, USA Today

Authorities investigating whether U.-Md. stabbing death was a hate crime, The Washington Post

Stabbing Death At University of Maryland Investigated As Hate Crime, NPR

‘We Didn’t Have Enough’: No Hate Crime Charges Brought in UMd. Killing, NBCWashington

Prepared by Graham Piro ‘18

September 14, 2017