The FBI is investigating the stabbing death of a 23-year-old African American student on the University of Maryland campus Saturday as a potential hate crime. Authorities said Sunday that the suspect, a white man, was a member of a Facebook group called “Alt-Reich: Nation.”
Richard W. Collins II, a student at Bowie State University, was visiting the UMD campus on Saturday when he was approached by 22-year-old Sean Urbanski while waiting for an Uber. Urbanski, who is white, allegedly stabbed Collins in the chest “totally unprovoked” and fled the scene before he was detained a short time later, according to police. Urbanski had a folding knife in his front pocket.
Collins was scheduled to graduate Tuesday and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army last Thursday, according to his family.
Authorities charged Urbanski with first and second-degree murder and first-degree assault. An FBI special agent said Sunday the agency is investigating whether the attack was a hate crime.
The “Alt-Reich: Nation” Facebook group, which has since been deleted, was an online forum for racist and sexist memes and other inflammatory material. Authorities have not said whether Urbanski was an active participant or if he ever created or shared troubling material.
“When I look at the information that’s contained on that website, suffice it to say that it’s despicable, it shows extreme bias against women, Latinos, persons of Jewish faith and especially African-Americans,” said University Police Chief David Mitchell.
William C. Brennan, a lawyer for Urbanski, was not immediately available for comment.
“We want to get to the heart of this matter,” UMD President Wallace D. Loh said Sunday.
The stabbing follows a series of racially-charged incidents on UMD’s College Park, Maryland campus this this year. In both December and March, a series of white supremacist fliers were found across the campus. “It is your civic duty to report any and all illegal aliens,” one flier said. “They are criminals. America is a white nation.”
The fliers included a link to the website of Vanguard America, a white supremacist group, according to the Washington Post. The university said it was investigating the posters as acts of hate or bias.
And in April, a noose was found inside one of the school’s fraternity houses.
ThinkProgress tracked the rise of hate crimes in the United States in the months after President Trump’s election. From Election Day until early February, at least 60 incidents of hate occurred against black people across the country. Almost 23 percent of the 261 total hate crimes targeted African Americans during those months when hateful messages, assaults, threats, harassment, and vandalism spiked.