A white man was sentenced to life in prison Thursday for fatally stabbing a Black college student in what prosecutors described as a racially motivated hate crime on the University of Maryland’s main campus in 2017.
A jury convicted Sean Urbanski, 25, of first-degree murder for the death of Richard Collins III, a newly commissioned Army lieutenant, in December 2019.
On the night of his murder, Collins was days away from graduating from Bowie State University, a historically Black college, and was celebrating with a friend at bars. His mother, Dawn Collins said “he was on a pinnacle of doing great things,” at a press conference Thursday.
“He had aspired to be the next Gen. Colin Powell,” Collins said. “And there was nothing that was going to stop him.”
Urbanski, who was enrolled at the University of Maryland’s College Park campus, was also drinking with friends at bars that night. Early in the morning on May 20, 2017, Urbanski approached Collins at a bus stop where he was waiting with two people, a white man and an Asian woman. Urbanski brandished a knife.
“Step left, step left if you know what’s best for you,” Urbanski told them, according to police.
Collins said no and Urbanski stabbed him once in his chest. He then sat down on a bench until police arrived and arrested him.
Prosecutors said alcohol and racist propaganda emboldened Urbanksi to act on his hatred of Black people. Urbanksi was part of several alt-right Facebook groups that shared racist images, according to Prince George’s County state’s attorney, Aisha Braveboy.
At a press conference after the sentencing, Braveboy said the hate that drove Urbanksi to murder was the same hate that fueled the riot at the US Capitol on Jan. 6.
“It cannot and will not be tolerated,” she said. “Hate kills and it killed this young man.”
Defense attorneys argued there was no evidence of a racial motive for the killing.
Circuit Court Judge Lawrence Hill Jr. dismissed a hate crime charge against Urbanski saying that prosecutors didn’t meet their legal burden of showing that racial hatred motivated Urbanski to stab Collins. But the judge said Thursday that he believes race and alcohol both were factors in the killing
Collins’ parents have successfully lobbied to enact legislation named after their son which changed the state’s hate crime law. Prosecutors now don’t have to prove hate is the only motivating factor in committing a crime.
Although prosecutors had sought the maximum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole, Urbanksi will be eligible for parole, Braveboy said. Dawn and Richard Collins Jr. expressed disappointment that Urbanski didn’t receive the maximum sentence Thursday.
Urbanski apologized to Collins’ parents during the hearing for the “horrible pain” he caused them and said he wishes he could “go back and change what happened.”
“There hasn’t been a day that’s gone by where I haven’t thought about what I’ve done to you, and if I could switch places with your son I would in a heartbeat,” Urbanski said.
Contributing: The Associated Press
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