UPPER MARLBORO — Family and friends of slain Bowie State University student Richard W. Collins III gathered Friday to remember the young man they described as a protective brother and a role model who always put the needs of others first.
The 23-year-old business administration and ROTC student was fatally stabbed on the University of Maryland campus early May 20 in an attack authorities are investigating as a possible hate crime.
Sean Christopher Urbanski, a 22-year-old University of Maryland student from Severna Park, is charged with first- and second-degree murder, and is being held without bail.
Family members who spoke during the ceremony, held at the First Baptist Church of Glenarden, called on a crowd of at least 100 to let Collins' death be a reminder of the need for peace, love and acceptance.
"Today I am going to challenge you all to love," said Kristal Godfrey, a cousin. "I'm not talking about that hippie love. I'm talking about that fierce, unrelenting love. ... I'm talking about a love that protects and stands up for what is right.
"I'm talking about a love that is not passive, but love that is bold, that does not allow hate to persist."
Godfrey and her two sisters recalled growing up with Collins, a brother figure who was the ringleader in fun and pranks, and his sister, Robyn.
An athlete and star student, Collins was remembered by Army and university leaders as a leader and mentor to other students.
Maj. Gen. Christopher P. Hughes, who oversees the Army's Cadet Command, said he received hundreds of letters from Collins' peers, who recounted stories of him lending money without expectation of repayment and going out of his way to make outsiders and newcomers feel welcome.
"This is the legacy of a young, 23-year-old man who wanted to do something greater than himself," said Hughes.
"It is up to all of us to remember this legacy and to continue to share the story," he said. "I, too, will continue to echo this story until such time that these kinds of incidents become ancient history in our nation."
The Collins family's pastor, the Rev. Darryl L. Godlock of Calvert County Baptist Church, said the family was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and devastated by the loss of their son and brother.
He said Collins would be remembered for three values: faith, family and country.
Days before his death, Collins was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Army. His father and grandfather also served in the military.
"This is a difficult day because we're not supposed to be here," Godlock said. "We're just trying to hold on to this current moment. We're holding on to God's unchanging hand in this season."
At the end of a service that drew applause, laughter and tears, Collins' casket was carried into the hearse outside the church by members of the Bowie State University Army ROTC.
His parents, Dawn M. and Richard Collins, were the last to look into the back of the vehicle before its doors shut.
Dawn Collins held the ceremonially folded flag that had flown over the U.S. Capitol. Richard Collins, wearing a faded baseball cap with the Army insignia, stood at attention and saluted his son.