A grand jury has indicted a white University of Maryland student accused of stabbing a black Bowie State University student to death this spring on hate crime charges.
State's Attorney Angela Alsobrooks announced Tuesday that a grand jury reviewed significant digital evidence and would indict Sean Christopher Urbanski, 22, on hate crime charges related to the May 20 stabbing of Richard Collins III, 23.
"It is obvious that he was killed ONLY because he was black," a statement from the Collins family's attorney said. "The racists among us are more emboldened and feel more empowered than at any time in recent memory."
Collins was set to graduate three days after he he was stabbed to death.
Killing of Bowie State Student Was Caught on Video
Urbanski was arrested on murder charges immediately after the stabbing.
Prosecutors previously said in July that they did not have enough evidence to charge him for hate crimes.
Urbanski previously was found to have been a part of a Facebook group called "Alt-Reich Nation," where members post disparaging material about African Americans and others.
It's often difficult to build a hate crime case, Alsobrooks said.
"Developing a motive is always a challenging aspect of a case. In this case, and in any other case, you can't get it wrong," she said.
"Why is something that we all want to know," Alsobrooks said. "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."
Student Killed at UMd. Honored at Bowie Graduation
The prosecutors continued their investigation into Urbanski's digital information.
Evidence collected from Urbanski's phone and computers shed enough light on his motive to bring further charges, Alsobrooks said. She declined to elaborate on what was digital evidence was found or presented to the grand jury.
Prosecutors said they will seek a life sentence for the murder charge, and an additional 20 years in prison for a hate crime resulting in death.
"I think justice requires that we charge every charge that applies," Alsobrooks said.
Collins served in the ROTC and had just been commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army. He had a "loving and giving heart," his devastated father said in the days after Collins' death.
Court documents obtained by News4 say Collins was waiting for the university's shuttle bus with his friends about 3 a.m. on May 20 when they realized the shuttle bus had stopped running for the night. The three decided to call an Uber and were waiting for one to arrive when they heard Urbanski screaming nearby, according to the documents.
Killing at University of Maryland Rocks Campus
Collins and his friends watched Urbanski as he approached them. According to court documents, Urbanski said, "Step left, step left if you know what's best for you," and Collins responded "No."
Urbanski continued to approach the teens, pulled out a knife with a 3- to 4-inch silver blade and stabbed Collins once in the chest, the documents said.
The victim's friends then called 911. Collins was seriously injured and taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
University police responded and took the suspect into custody by the bus stop where the stabbing happened, University of Maryland Police Chief David Mitchell said.
Mitchell said the suspect had been drinking but would not comment on what effect, if any, that had on the incident.
Video of the fatal attack caught on a security camera has been crucial to the case, said Chief Joseph Ruddy, who leads the Prince George's County homicide unit.
Students Call For Change at University of Maryland After Stabbing
"There's video evidence that captured the entire incident that occurred and the stabbing of Lieutenant Collins," he said at the news conference.
Collins was honored at the commencement ceremony where he would have walked across the stage.
His gown and stole were draped over a chair in the front row, and his family accepted his business administration degree. A moment of silence was also held during the ceremony.
"Let us pause now in a moment of silence and contemplation of what each of us might do to promote greater peace, harmony and love that seems to be so lacking in our country and our world today," Bowie State President Mickey Burnim said.
Thousands of people gathered for Collins’ funeral, where he was remembered fondly.
"Richard Collins did more in his life than most in a full lifetime," Commander of U.S. Army Cadet Command Maj. Gen. Christopher Hughes, said.
Rev. Darryl Godlock, a spokesman for Collins's family, described the 23-year-old as an "outstanding" and "highly intelligent" man who wanted to follow in his father's footsteps in the military.
The bus stop where Collins was killed is now covered in flowers and messages honoring his memory.
Urbanski's trial is expected to begin in January.