The FBI and University of Maryland police are investigating a graduating Army officer’s slaying early Saturday as a possible hate crime after linking the alleged assailant to the “Alt-Reich,” a racist Facebook group.
Sean Christopher Urbanski has been charged with first- and second-degree murder as well as first-degree assault in the weekend attack that killed Richard Collins III, police said.
University of Maryland Police Chief David Mitchell said he asked the FBI to assist in the investigation after learning that Urbanski, 22, belonged to a Facebook group called "Alt-Reich: Nation," where members post disparaging material about African Americans and others.
"We are here to evaluate that as an ongoing concern with respect to whether or not this was a hate crime,"
Gordon Johnson, special agent in charge of the FBI field office in Baltimore, told reporters at a news conference.
The attacker, Sean Urbanski, 22, stormed toward the victim bellowing, “Step left, step left if you know what’s good for you,” UM Police Chief David Mitchell said of the attack during a media briefing Sunday evening.
The Baltimore Sun reports Collins and his two pals were waiting for an Uber ride prior the attack.
Collins was visiting the Maryland campus from Bowie State University. He was commissioned through Bowie State’s ROTC program on Thursday and was slated to graduate with a business degree on Tuesday.
The victim, 2nd Lt. Richard Collins III, defiantly said, “No,” Mitchell said, citing witnesses.
Police believe Urbanski, a University of Maryland student from Severna Park, then drove a knife into the 23-year-old victim’s chest during the 3 a.m. encounter on the College Park campus, ultimately killing him.
Collins, a fourth generation member of the armed services, was to report to Missouri’s Fort Leonard Wood and train for countering weapons of mass destruction, according to his commission ceremony.
“Suffice to say, it’s despicable. It shows extreme bias against women, latinos, members of the Jewish faith, and especially African-Americans — which brings up questions of the motive in the case,” Mitchell said of the Facebook page.
“I only wish I had the honor to shake hands with 2nd Lt. Ricky Collins,”
Pastor Darryl Godlock spoke to WTTG-TV on behalf of Collins’ grieving family.
“This was a good kid,” Godlock told the Washington D.C. television station. “He was going places and he had high aspirations to achieve all the goals that he set before him, as for a military career.”
“We’re just devastated that his life has been taken away with this senseless act of violence.”
The Maryland school’s police chief said investigators learned Urbanski was among more than 1,100 members of the Facebook group “Alt-Reich: Nation,” which was dedicated to “controversial humor.” The group was removed from Facebook late Sunday.
The FBI’s field office in Maryland and Delaware is probing the case for additional evidence of bias through technical and digital forensics. Urbanski is white, while Collins is black.
Urbanski faces murder and assault charges in Collins’ death.