Richard Collins III, having just been commissioned as a lieutenant in the U.S. Army, was supposed to graduate from Bowie State University on Tuesday.
Instead, his campus will hold a vigil for him Monday night.
Collins, 23, was stabbed to death on the University of Maryland campus early Saturday. The suspect is a 22-year-old Maryland student who belongs to a racist Facebook group, and Collins’ death is being investigated as a hate crime.
Bowie State is a public HBCU about 20 miles from UM, the state’s flagship university.
Sean Urbanski, 22, the Maryland student suspected of killing Collins, has been charged with first- and second-degree murder and first-degree assault.
Urbanski is a member of a white supremacist Facebook group called Alt-Reich Nation. On Sunday, University of Maryland police chief David Mitchell announced that the FBI had been called in to assist in the investigation.
"When I looked at the information that’s contained on that website, suffice to say that it’s despicable. It shows extreme
bias against women, Latinos, members of the Jewish faith, and especially African-Americans,” Mitchell said Sunday at a press conference.
“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.”
The Collin’s murder comes on the heels of several other racially-charged incidents that have rocked the Maryland campus, as well as other schools in that region.
Earlier this month, university officials at Maryland investigated a noose found in the fraternity house along Fraternity Row.
This month also saw federal prosecutors join an investigation at American University, after bananas with racist messages hung from nooses were spotted at several locations across the Washington, D.C. campus.
The bananas were discovered after Taylor Dumpson became the first black woman in the school’s history to be elected student body president.
“I'm saddened but not shocked to hear of Collin's death. Unfortunately this political climate is a cauldron of racism and hate that is waiting to bubble over,” said LaTanya S. Sothern, who attended both BSU and American. “This new incident seems like things are escalating. I am saddened that the BSU family has to deal with this and it is overshadowing the commencement tomorrow, which should be a day of celebration.”
According to witnesses, at about 3 a.m. on Saturday, Collins and two other students were waiting for an Uber outside of a dormitory when Urbanski approached them.
It seemed random and unprovoked. Police say that Urbanski also appeared intoxicated.
"Step left, step left if you know what's best for you," Urbanski said, according to charging documents written by the police.
When Collins refused, Urbanski stabbed him once in the chest, police allege.
Carla Morrison, a 1992 graduate of Bowie State and the executive director of Sisters of Today and Tomorrow, an Atlanta-based nonprofit that develops female leadership, said the school quickly reached out to alums — many of whom had plans to attend graduation — to inform them of Collin’s death.
“My gut reaction was I couldn’t believe something like this could happen. And the fact that this might be racially motivated is very disturbing,” Morrison said. “It was shocking and sad just to know that something like that can happen. Especially to someone with such a bright future.”
Artie Lee Travis, vice president for student affairs at Bowie State, told the Baltimore Sun that the school is anxious to see a quick investigation into the killing.
“Hate has no place in America,” Travis said. “Hate has no place on a college campus where young minds are coming together to try to change the world.”
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