Suspect in University of Maryland fatal stabbing held without bail, students say school must address racial tensions

Balloons were released at the end of an event to honor Richard Collins III, held Monday at Bowie State University.

A white University of Maryland student charged with fatally stabbing a black Bowie State student on the College Park campus was denied bond Monday amid student calls for officials to address racial tensions at the state's flagship university.

Sean Christopher Urbanski, 22, is charged with first- and second-degree murder in the death Saturday of Richard Wilbur Collins III, 23, an ROTC student who last week was commissioned an Army second lieutenant.


Collins was waiting for an Uber ride early Saturday after visiting friends on the UM campus when he was attacked by a man described as intoxicated and incoherent. Authorities are investigating whether the killing was a hate crime.

District Judge Patrice E. Lewis ordered that Urbanski remain held at the Prince George's County detention center, calling him a "clear danger" to the community. The judge denied a defense request for house arrest. Neither Urbanski's family nor his attorney, William C. Brennan, would comment Monday.


The killing — and the revelation that Urbanski, a 2013 graduate of Severna Park High School, was a member of a racist Facebook group — reignited a debate about racial problems at College Park after incidents including the discovery this month of a noose in a fraternity house and posters promoting white supremacy earlier in the year.

The university's Black Student Union mourned Collins' death and blasted Maryland administrators, who they said "enabled Urbanski through their consistent dismissal of blatant hate speech and race-biased crimes."

"This is not the first incident exposing the escalating racial tensions at the University of Maryland and if the administration does not extend their actions beyond 'dialogue,' it will surely not be the last," the group said in a statement. "We, alongside other organizations, will not let this go quietly and intend to make the administration well aware of how this tragedy has affected us, until it is adequately and thoroughly addressed."

Yanet Amanuel, who graduated from Maryland on Sunday with a degree in sociology, said some students were concerned that administrators did not deal with previous incidents with more severity.


"When there's incident after incident and no one's held accountable or responsible, it leads students to believe they can get away with it," said Amanuel, a member of ProtectUMD, a coalition of campus groups representing minority students. "A lot of students are feeling like this could be any of us. He just happened to be standing there."

University President Wallace D. Loh, who denounced the killing and called for a moment of silence at the beginning of Sunday's commencement ceremonies, declined through a spokeswoman to be interviewed Monday. University officials declined to answer questions about the incident or racial tensions on campus.

The university released a statement on Monday night expressing devastation at the incident and announcing a moment of reflection and other gathering places and events for the campus community to attend in the coming days.

James Brady, chairman of the Board of Regents for the University System of Maryland, defended the university. He said the killing was "horrific," but added he doesn't believe College Park is "a caldron for these kinds of events."

"It's a very big institution," he said. "We have many examples where there is very good activity going on that crosses racial lines."

Brady noted that the university system organized a council of administrators from Maryland's public colleges more than a year ago to promote inclusion and diversity. And in response to the Saturday killing, the university stepped up security on campus, began a free nighttime bus service and offered counseling and community spaces for students, faculty and staff.

"The safety of our campus community remains a top priority," Loh said Sunday. "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."

Republican Gov. Larry Hogan denounced the killing as a "heinous crime" and called Collins "an incredibly promising young man."

"The individual responsible for this young man's death must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," Hogan wrote in a Facebook post. "Violence and hatred have no place in our communities and will never be tolerated.

"In the wake of this senseless tragedy, I ask that all Marylanders show strength and come together in this time of grieving."

Hundreds filled an auditorium on Bowie State's campus Monday night to honor and remember Collins.

Classes were over for the year, but some students who said they didn't personally know Collins still returned for the candlelight vigil. They recognized him because they remembered seeing him around campus, a smile on his face.

Lt. Col. Joel Thomas, who leads ROTC at the university, said character will be the first thing that comes to mind when he remembers Collins.

Character is one of the qualities most valued in a leader, Thomas said, and Collins had that. He was trustworthy, honest and dependable, Thomas said.

People must grieve and cry, Thomas said. "Our tears can purify our mind and nourish our souls,"

Richard Collins Jr., father of the slain student, told NBC News on Monday he's been too consumed dealing with "the initial stage of shock" to have fully grasped yet the implications of the "horrific and senseless act."

He described his son as a young man of deep faith devoted to serving others.

Collins, who was from Calvert County, was scheduled to graduate from Bowie State on Tuesday with a degree in business.

Witnesses told police that when the attacker approached Collins, who was with two friends, he yelled, "Step left! Step left if you know what's good for you!" University Police Chief David Mitchell said Sunday.

Mitchell said the victim and his friends looked at the attacker, puzzled, and Collins told him no.

Then, police said, Urbanski stabbed Collins in the chest; he was arrested at the scene and found to have a folding knife. The attack was captured by surveillance cameras.

Collins was taken to a hospital, where he died.

Mitchell asked the FBI on Sunday to investigate whether the killing was a hate crime after detectives discovered that Urbanski was a member of a since-deleted Facebook group called "Alt-Reich: Nation," which contained posts with "extreme bias against women, Latinos, persons of Jewish faith and especially African-Americans," the chief said.

The Prince George's County Police Department also is assisting with the investigation, officials said.

Prince George's County State's Attorney Angela Alsobrooks said it would probably take more than Urbanski's involvement with the "Alt-Reich" Facebook group to charge him with a hate crime.


"We are not even close to concluding that this is a hate crime," she said.


A memorial service is planned for 1 p.m. Wednesday at the University's of Maryland's University Chapel.

The university addressed racial tension about this time last year when university police used pepper spray to break up an off-campus party of mostly black students. That led some students to complain of racial bias.

After the pepper spray incident, Loh wrote an open letter to the campus.

"This incident compels us to confront the reality that African-Americans, and other persons of color, experience bias and unequal treatment in everyday life," Loh wrote. "I ask that we all continue working together to create a campus culture of inclusive excellence, where everyone feels a sense of belonging and security, and is valued, trusted, and respected."

Baltimore Sun reporters Carrie Wells, Rachael Pacella, and Phil Davis contributed to this article.



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