The FBI is investigating the fatal stabbing of a black student as a possible hate crime, after discovering the suspect may have been a member of an online white supremacist organisation.
Richard Collins III died after being stabbed on the campus of the University of Maryland, where he was visiting friends. The 23-year-old, who had recently been commissioned into the army as a lieutenant, was due to take part in a graduation ceremony at nearby Bowie State University.
Police have arrested 22-year-old Sean Urbanski and charged him over the fatal stabbing, which took place on Saturday morning.
Reports said the FBI had been asked to join the investigation after it was revealed that Mr Urbanski was allegedly a member of a white supremacist group on Facebook.
The Associated Press said the University of Maryland Police Chief David Mitchell, said he had asked the FBI to assist after being told that Mr Urbanski belonged to a group called “Alt-Reich: Nation", where members post disparaging material about African Americans and others.
“We are here to evaluate that as an ongoing concern with respect to whether or not this was a hate crime,” said Gordon Johnson, special agent in charge of the FBI field office in Baltimore.
Officials said Mr Collins was with two friends near a bus stop on campus around 3am on Saturday when they allegedly heard Mr Urbanski screaming and watched him approach them.
Mr Urbanski said “Step left, step left if you know what's best for you”, according to police documents. Mr Collins refused to do so, before Mr Urbanski allegedly stabbed him once in the chest.
Mr Mitchell, the police chief, said the attack had spread fear across the university.
“If I’m a person of colour, I would certainly look at this as something that could happen to me. In fact, I know on Facebook our students are saying that,” Mr Mitchell said.
Artie Lee Travis, vice president for student affairs at Bowie State, said the school hoped the investigation moved forward as quickly as possible
“Hate has no place in America,” Mr Travis said. “Hate has no place on a college campus, where young minds are coming together to try to change the world.”
The young man’s family said he was a keen athlete. “He loved lacrosse and soccer. He was a runner,” his father, Richard Collins, told NBC. “He was just competitive at heart, and had a loving and giving heart.”
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