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Maryland man indicted for hate crime in student's slaying

| Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017, 8:30 p.m.
This combination of photos provided by the U.S. Army and the University of Maryland Police Department shows Richard Collins III, left, and Sean Urbanski. On Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017, Urbanski was indicted on a hate crime charge for allegedly stabbing Collins to death “because of his race,” a Maryland prosecutor said.
This combination of photos provided by the U.S. Army and the University of Maryland Police Department shows Richard Collins III, left, and Sean Urbanski. On Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017, Urbanski was indicted on a hate crime charge for allegedly stabbing Collins to death “because of his race,” a Maryland prosecutor said.

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — A white man was indicted Tuesday on a hate crime charge for allegedly stabbing a black college student to death “because of his race,” a Maryland prosecutor said.

Prince George's County State's Attorney Angela Alsobrooks announced the grand jury indictment against Sean Urbanski at a news conference in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. Richard Collins III was stabbed to death on May 20 at the University of Maryland, days before he was set to graduate from Bowie State University. He had just been commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army.

“We are completely comfortable with the indictment in this case and look forward to taking the case to trial in January,” Alsobrooks said, adding that prosecutors took the time they felt was necessary to investigate all the evidence.

Authorities analyzed “lots and lots of digital evidence,” including evidence from Urbanski's phone and computer data, Alsobrooks said.

“There was lots of digital evidence that we could look at to get a sense for the motive in this case,” Alsobrooks said, though she declined to elaborate.

“Again, we can't discuss in detail without compromising our case what the evidence is in the case, but again the evidence led us to the conclusion that Lt. Collins was murdered because of his race,” Alsobrooks added, when reporters asked for further details.

Hassan Murphy, an attorney representing the Collins family, commended the decision to bring the hate crime charge.

Collins, 23, was visiting friends at the College Park campus of the University of Maryland when the stabbing happened.

Authorities quickly focused on the possibility that the slaying was a hate crime, because Urbanski became a member of a racist Facebook group several months before the stabbing. University of Maryland Police Chief said at the time he asked the FBI to assist in the investigation after learning Urbanski belonged to a Facebook group called “Alt-Reich: Nation,” where members post disparaging material about African-Americans and others.

Officials said Collins was with two friends near a campus bus stop about 3 a.m. when they heard Urbanski screaming and watched him approach them. Urbanski said “Step left, step left if you know what's best for you,” according to the charging documents. Collins said “no” before Urbanski stabbed him once in the chest, the documents said.

The killing roiled both campuses, which are near each other in suburban Washington. Bowie State is a historically black school. The case increased racial tensions at the flagship campus of Maryland's university system, and the university announced new initiatives to improve how it investigates hate-based incidents.

“The Collins family remains in our thoughts, following their tragic loss last May,” the University of Maryland said in a statement. “This is especially true today as the prosecution of this senseless crime moves through the criminal justice system.”

Urbanski, 22, has been held on a murder charge since the stabbing. The former University of Maryland student faces up to life without parole, plus 20 years for the charge of a hate crime resulting in death, Alsobrooks said.

William Brennan, Urbanski's attorney, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

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