A Prince George's County grand jury has indicted a white former University of Maryland student on a hate crime charge in the stabbing death of a black Bowie State University student on this university's campus.
Prosecutors sifted through "lots of digital evidence" from Sean Urbanski's phone and computer and are "comfortable now" that they can file the hate crime charge, Prince George's County State's Attorney Angela Alsobrooks said at a news conference Tuesday afternoon.
"What we found occurred on this unfortunate tragic night of May 20 is that we believe that Lt. Collins was killed — that he was murdered — and that it was unjustified, it was premeditated and that it was as a result of his race," Alsobrooks said.
Urbanski, 22, was indicted on one count of murder in July in the death of 2nd Lt. Richard Collins. The jurors were given information from video evidence that captured the incident, said Joseph Ruddy, an assistant state's attorney.
Collins, 23, was visiting this university on May 20, days before his graduation. While waiting for an Uber at about 3 a.m. near the Montgomery Hall bus stop with his friends, Urbanski approached and told him, "Step left, step left if you know what's good for you," according to police.
Collins, who looked confused, told Urbanski, "No," police said.
Urbanski then allegedly stabbed Collins in the chest, police said. Collins was taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead at about 4 a.m.
Witnesses identified Urbanski as the attacker, and a folding knife was found in his pocket. Urbanski's attorney, William Brennan, said drugs and alcohol may have played a role in the incident. Brennan did not respond to a request for comment regarding the hate crime charge.
The FBI began investigating whether the stabbing was a possible hate crime after police found out Urbanski was a member of the since-deleted racist Facebook group "Alt-Reich: Nation."
Alsobrooks said she planned to pursue life without parole for Urbanski. He is being held without bond and his trial is scheduled to begin in January.
With the added hate crime charge, Alsobrooks said Tuesday that Urbanski will have 20 years added to the life sentence if convicted.
"The Bowie State University community continues to mourn the loss of 2nd Lt. Richard Collins III, whose life was taken in a senseless act of violence," read a Bowie State University statement released Tuesday afternoon. "While it is encouraging to see progress being made in the criminal case, we continue to reflect on the precious life lost."
Collins' death followed a year rattled by racial tension on the campus. A noose was found in this university's Phi Kappa Tau fraternity chapter house in April, and there were five reports of white nationalist posters throughout the campus since December.
"The Collins family remains in our thoughts, following their tragic loss last May. This is especially true today as the prosecution of this senseless crime moves through the criminal justice system," read a university statement released Tuesday afternoon.
Following the stabbing, university President Wallace Loh announced a wave of campus initiatives, including a rapid-response team that would provide support to victims of hate incidents, a diversity task force that will review courses and training on cultural competency, and an annual report on hate incidents from the Office of Civil Rights and Sexual Misconduct.
The 18-member President's and University Senate's Joint Task Force on Inclusion and Respect has also been reviewing policies and programming, including the Code of Student Conduct and its treatment of hate bias incidents and free speech issues on the campus, to determine whether changes are needed to foster inclusion.
It has held two open forums on the campus, where some students have expressed frustration and doubts about whether the force would be able to implement significant changes. The task force plans to report its findings in April.