WASHINGTON — A Maryland congressman said on the House floor today that the murder of a newly commissioned Army lieutenant by a man who belonged to a white supremacist Facebook group “exposes a dangerous rising tide.”
Richard Collins III, a Bowie State University student who was supposed to graduate this week, was visiting friends at the University of Maryland and waiting for an Uber with some of his pals at a bus stop at about 3 a.m. Saturday. A man approached the group and started shouting at Collins, University of Maryland Police Chief David Mitchell said.
“He said to the victim, ‘Step left, step left if you know what’s good for you,'” Mitchell said, citing witnesses at the scene. “The victim looked at him puzzled with the other friends of his and said ‘No,’. It was then that (the suspect) stabbed the victim in his chest.”
Sean Christopher Urbanski, 22, a University of Maryland student, was arrested near the scene of the crime and charged with first- and second-degree murder and first-degree assault.
Mitchell said Urbanski belonged to an “Alt-Reich Nation” Facebook group that posted “extreme bias against women, Latinos, members of the Jewish faith and especially African-Americans, which brings up questions as to the motive of this case.” Federal officials are investigating whether the murder was a hate crime.
The Anne Arundel County Police Department said in a statement Tuesday that it was “made aware of an inappropriate Facebook post” about Collins’ murder “made by Welby Burgone, a former police academy recruit who is currently assigned as a civilian employee in our Communications Section.”
“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 statement added, noting that the post “was extremely insensitive and appeared to be racially motivated.”
According to the Baltimore Sun, the police employee was a high school classmate of Urbanski’s and was responding on Facebook to another classmate. “F— yeah Sean!!!!!” the other man wrote in praise of Urbanski. “That’s what happens when n—– try and get frosty with an OG! Talk s—, get stabbed lol.” Burgone replied with an image of a crab holding a knife and the words, “You mess with crabo You get stabo.”
Anne Arundel County Police Chief Timothy Altomare called Burgone’s actions “a betrayal of the values” of the department, adding that “any employee who espouses or supports hateful or racist ideology will be held accountable.”
The congressman who represents the district in which the murder occurred, Rep. Anthony Brown (D-Md.), an Army veteran who served for nearly three decades, saluted a large photo of Collins placed on an easel on the House floor, where he called for action against this “heinous, despicable and unprovoked crime of hate” and racist ideology.
“Richard Collins’ murderer — who was from a middle-class family, hung out at the Student Union and library — was a member of a racist neo-Nazi group called ‘Alt Reich Nation.’ He was not some outsider. He was a homegrown terrorist who was radicalized on university campus. What is most troubling is this is not the first incident of hate at the University of Maryland,” Brown said.
“This academic year alone there’ve been anti-immigrant chalkings, racist flyers, threats and less than a month ago there was a noose found inside a campus fraternity house,” he said. “But this isn’t just a troubling trend at UMD. There’s been an unprecedented spike in racist and hate activity on campuses since November. Posters at the University of Texas implored students to ‘report any and all illegal aliens. America is a white nation.’ Another flier, with swastikas, at UCLA, read in part ‘the hordes of our enemies from the blacks to the Jews are deserving of fates of violence.'”
“So today, I’m calling on the administration — that has repeatedly failed to denounce the hate crimes directed at Jews, members of the LGBT community, or immigrants –- to denounce the hate-fueled killing of a black soldier, Second Lieutenant Richard Collins.”
Brown said “formulaic” sympathetic responses to the student’s murder are “not good enough.”
“If this escalation of hate is going to end in Maryland and across the country, it’ll be because all of us take a stand. Not only against the hard right and hate festering on campus, but to leaders that have been too content to remain silent and look the other way,” he added. “Hate speech is not protected. Encouraging open academic debate cannot lead to inaction that creates a breeding ground for prejudice, discrimination and violent hatred.”
“In the absence of real change, we take to the streets. We protest. We hold vigils. But Richard Collins deserves better. Our children deserve better.”