Although the family and friends of Second Lt. Richard W. Collins III continue to mourn his tragic death more than three years ago, his spirit lives on throughout the state of Maryland.
Through an annual $1 million scholarship created by the state and named after Collins, students at the state’s four historically Black colleges and universities have benefitted from thousands of dollars in scholarships for those enrolled as Reserve Officers’ Training Corps cadets.
Collins’ military training achievements were noticed by Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy in November 2019. He delivered a posthumous promotion to first lieutenant for Collins, who had just been commissioned a second lieutenant.
“Richard believed in what he was doing with his military career,” his mother, Dawn Collins, said. “He had aspired to be the next Gen. Colin Powell. There was nothing that was going to stop him.”
That goal was derailed May 20, 2017, when he was stabbed to death while visiting friends on the campus of the University of Maryland. The stabbing occurred when Sean Urbanski, a white, 25-year-old student, confronted Collins at a College Park bus shelter. He was convicted of murder by a county jury.
One day prior, Collins, 23, received a commission in the Army.
Several days later, he was scheduled to graduate from nearby Bowie State University.
The family received some closure Thursday, Jan. 14. a Prince George’s County Circuit Court judge sentenced Urbanski to life in prison.
According to court documents, Urbanski walked over to Collins and two friends, one white and one Asian, at a bus stop on the campus about 3 a.m.
Urbanski, now 25, demanded Collins move to “step left if you know what’s best for you,” according to court records. Because Collins refused to move, police said Urbanski fatally stabbed Collins with a three-inch pocket knife.
Law enforcement officials found racist memes on Urbanski’s cellphone and concluded he belonged to a white supremacist Facebook group “Alt-Reich: Nation.”
Urbanski’s attorney, John McKenna, said during Thursday’s hearing his blood alcohol content at the time of the encounter was at least .20, almost three times above the legal limit of .08.
McKenna said his client couldn’t remember what he did and still can’t. Although Urbanski had the racist photos in his cell, McKenna said he’s no “hate-filled, right-wing nut.”
Urbanski’s mother, Elizabeth, addressed the Collins family directly.
“There is so much that I have wanted to say to you over the last three years. Whatever I could say will never be right. It would never be enough,” she said. “Your son, Richard, should be here and it’s my son Sean’s fault that he’s not. I am so sorry.”
He was sentenced to life in prison, but Urbanski can’t receive parole unless recommended by the state parole board and then approved by the governor.
State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy requested the judge to sentence Urbanski to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
“While we are disappointed that the charges [Braveboy] pursued was not fulfilled, we certainly are happy that the sentence gave him a sentence for his natural life,” said Richard Collins Jr., who also served in the Army. “We’re resigned to continue the legacy of our son and continuing to support all the causes we want to make a positive difference in going forward with what remains of our life in honor of his life.”
His father, Richard Collins Sr., also served in the military and a Korean War veteran. Back home in North Carolina in 1954, the elder Collins got murdered by a white man for allegedly peeking in a window.
Meanwhile, the Collins family formed a special bond with Braveboy, who became the first family she met when she took office two years ago.
Bravely led the push in Annapolis to change the state hate crime statute that a person would be charged with a hate crime “motivated either in whole or in part by another person’s or group’s race, color, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, gender, disability, or national origin, or because another person or group is homeless.…”
The law passed last year and is named after Collins.
“The fight for justice that this young man fought for will not end today,” Braveboy said after Urbanski’s sentencing. “I consider them family myself. I will work with them to rid this world of hate.”