Second Lt. Richard Collins III did everything right.
He pursued the “American dream” by going to college and preparing to serve his country in the U.S. Army. But that all ended early Saturday morning when University of Maryland student Sean Urbanski, a stranger, stabbed Collins in the chest.
At age 23, Collins was killed because he was Black.
On Tuesday, instead of his family seeing him walk across the stage to receive a degree from Bowie State University, a historically Black university in Maryland, they accepted his posthumous business administration degree during the commencement ceremony. Collins’ gown was draped on a chair in the front row. The last time he will be seen is in a coffin.
Urbanski, of Severna Park, Md., who is white, has been charged with first- and second-degree murder and first-degree assault in the stabbing death of Collins. Urbanski approached Collins and two friends on the campus of the University of Maryland while they waited for an Uber ride. He told Collins, “Step left, step left if you know what’s good for you,” according to campus police.
Collins, puzzled, said, “No.” Urbanski then stabbed him in the chest. He died at a hospital. The stabbing was captured on surveillance video.
An investigation showed that Urbanski, 22, was part of the Alt-Reich Facebook group, which carries racially and sexually charged material. The findings triggered an FBI probe into whether Collins’ death was a hate crime.
On Monday, the Anne Arundel County Police Department in Maryland issued a press release stating the department was made aware of an “inappropriate Facebook post” by Welby Burgone, a former police academy recruit assigned as a civilian employee. Burgone was a classmate of Urbanski at Severna Park High School, according to the Capital Gazette.
“The social media post made by Mr. Burgone about the murder of Bowie State University student Richard Wilbur Collins III by University of Maryland Student Sean Urbanski was extremely insensitive and appeared to be racially motivated,” the department said.
Burgone posted a photo of a crab that appears to be holding a knife with the caption “You mess with crabo You get a stabo” in the thread of a Facebook post that contained racial epithets.
“Within hours of being made aware of the comment, the Professional Standards Unit began an investigation which resulted in the suspension of Mr. Burgone,” the police said.
Another poster on the thread, who also identified himself as a classmate of Urbanski, wrote:
“F… yeah Sean!!!!! That’s what happens when n….. try and get frosty with an OG! Talk s…, get stabbed lol.”
So, we wait for the results of the FBI’s probe on why Urbanski killed Collins, but we’ve seen this type of hate crime before.
In 2015, the act of domestic terrorism committed by white supremacist Dylann Roof in Charleston, S.C., shook the nation. At the age of 21, Roof, who was radicalized by false racist propaganda on the Internet written by extremist groups, murdered nine African American members of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
The Honorable Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney, Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lance, Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Tywanza “Wanza” Sanders, Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., and Myra Thompson were all executed by Roof, whose hatred consumed him.
Visit the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., and you’ll see a vivid explanation of terrorism against Blacks in the U.S. I was overcome with emotion when viewing Emmett Till’s casket on display in the museum.
African Americans who lost their lives while enslaved in the U.S. and during the Jim Crow era paved the way for Collins, who on Thursday was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army.
“He prided himself on his time, and in his ROTC unit on being the top runner in his PTs,” his father, Richard Collins Jr., told NBC 4 Washington. “He even won a certificate for being the best.”
His son was on his way to what could have been a thriving career in the U.S. military, of which President Donald Trump lauds himself an ardent supporter.
But will Trump reach out to the family of Second Lt. Richard Collins III and offer his condolences?
Will he thank Collins’ parents for raising a son who followed the law and worked hard to achieve his goals and chose to pursue a career in the military?
Will he denounce the domestic terrorism that abruptly ended Collins’ life? Trump can’t blame the young man’s death on violence in the inner cities.
Bowie State University had a moment of silence for Collins at the beginning of its commencement ceremony.
Collins’ father said he was still in shock.
“I’m in no place to feel many emotions besides sadness and just a deep sense of personal loss,” he said.
“A parent’s worst nightmare has just reached my doorstep.”
His son was a soldier who lost his life fighting domestic terrorism.
He fought domestic terrorism by pursuing an education and defying the negative societal stereotypes about young Black men in the U.S. He was positioning himself to become a successful American. His death is our loss.
Second Lt. Richard Collins III would have died for Sean Urbanski’s right to live free. Instead, his right to live was taken away by Sean Urbanski.