Hundreds of family, friends and fellow soldiers packed an Upper Marlboro church Friday to mourn and salute Richard W. Collins III, the 23-year-old Bowie State University student who was fatally stabbed in what authorities are investigating as a possible hate crime.
During the funeral service at First Baptist Church of Glenarden, Collins was remembered for his athletic and academic prowess and leadership skills, as well as for being on the cusp of a promising career in the Army.
The Rev. Darryl L. Godlock, pastor of Calvert County Baptist Church in Prince Frederick, said the Collins family hasn’t yet thought about the upcoming legal proceedings, choosing instead to focus on the memory of their loved one.
“We’re just holding on to God’s hand,” said Godlock, who spoke on behalf of the family after the service. “We just want to bring some closure for them and allow some time to heal. We are not going to allow his legacy to die in vain. We are going to keep the name of Richard Collins alive and well.”
Collins, who had been recently commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army and was set to graduate last week with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, was stabbed early morning on May 20 at a bus stop on the University of Maryland campus in College Park while waiting on a Uber with two friends.
The FBI will assist in the investigation because the suspect, white University of Maryland student Sean Urbanski, 22, of Severna Park, may have ties to a racist organization. He currently remains in custody.
Both schools held vigils this week to not only honor Collins’ memory, but also eradicate hate.
Bowie State set up a memorial fund in Collins’ name, and University of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh announced a plan to allocate $100,000 for creating diversity and inclusion programs.
At Friday’s service, family and friends told stories of how Collins, affectionately known as Richie, made them laugh, think and love.
Michael Godfrey, Collins’ uncle, said his nephew and his daughters were more like siblings than cousins, humorously recalling the time when Collins gave one of the girls a haircut with scissors.
“Richie was something special,” Godfrey said. “He stated his case why he was doing it, but [his wife and her sister] weren’t buying it. I thought it was kind of amusing. It’s the boy gene expressing himself, but they told me they weren’t amused and at that point I wasn’t amused, either.”
Three of Godfrey’s daughters talked about their love for their “brother,” who helped establish Bowie State’s first lacrosse team.
Kimberly Godfrey said Collins plotted “all their mischievous adventures while I just followed the lead.”
Kiersten Godfrey called him an entrepreneur for being a makeshift barber and showed how young men should treat her and her sisters.
Kristal Godfrey and her “little brother” celebrated their birthdays in December and constantly debated each other. She also had a challenge for attendees.
“Richie challenged me as a person and I did him, so today I want to challenge you to love,” Kristal Godfrey said to a round of applause. “I’m talking about that fierce, unrelenting love … that’s kind. I’m talking about love that protects and stands up for what is right and what is wrong. I’m talking about a love that is not passive. A love that is bold and does not let hate to persist.”
Pearline Muckelvene, 20, who attended Bowie State with Collins before recently transferring to the University of Maryland to study psychology online, expressed outrage over his death. She made a bowtie adorned with red, white and blue stars to give to the Collins family during the service.
“What is the University of Maryland doing for the family? [Saying] sorry? That’s not good enough,” she said while wearing a long-sleeve Bowie Start collar shirt. “He didn’t deserve this. He’s a true sweetheart.”
Some dignitaries and elected officials such as Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen of Maryland and state Sens. Joanne Benson (D-District 24) of Landover and C. Anthony Muse (D-District 26) of Fort Washington didn’t speak to the audience, but still came to offer condolences.
“It’s a life that someone thought they were wasting, but the legacy of [Collins’] life will go far beyond the years of what he would have lived down here,” said Muse, who is also a minister. “We need to do a lot of work in our own communities and not put our heads in the sand as though we are a colorblind society. What we can do is love each other in spite of our color and not have to act like color does not exist.”
A poignant moment came after the service when uniformed members of the Bowie State ROTC slowly placed Collins’ casket inside the hearse.
His father, Richard Jr., who also served in the Army, put on an Army baseball cap, turned toward the hearse and saluted his son.