The “totally unprovoked” murder of a young black soldier was committed by a white man who was a member of a “despicable” Facebook group, police have said.
Richard W Collins III, a newly commissioned Army officer, was allegedly stabbed to death by Sean Christopher Urbanski. Investigators are looking into whether it was a hate crime.
Mr Collins, 23, was black and a student at Bowie State University in Maryland, due to graduate tomorrow. Mr Urbanski, 22, was a student at the University of Maryland.
Police said Mr Urbanski was a member of a Facebook group called Alt Reich: Nation.
"When I looked at the information that’s contained on that website, suffice it to say that it’s despicable. It shows extreme bias against women, Latinos, members of the Jewish faith and especially African Americans,” University of Maryland Police Chief David Mitchell said, according to the Baltimore Sun.
“Which brings up questions as to the motive in this case. Knowing that we will continue to look for digital evidence, among other items of evidentiary value.”
The FBI is helping police with “technical support” to determine if there is evidence within the Facebook group that Mr Urbanski committed a hate crime.
The attack occurred in the early hours of Saturday when Mr Collins was waiting with friends for an Uber at the College Park campus just north of Washington DC.
Mr Urbanski allegedly approached the group and said “Step left, step left if you know what’s best for you.”
Mr Collins then replied “No,” police said, prompting Mr Urbanski to stab him in the chest and flee the scene. Mr Collins died in hospital. The attack was caught on CCTV, police said, and a knife was later found nearby.
Speaking on behalf of Mr Collins’ family, Reverend Darryl Godlock said: “This was a very caring individual. He was highly intelligent and he was at the peak of his career. He loved his family, he loved people that he came in contact with, and more importantly he loved his God."
University of Maryland President Wallace Loh said: “On behalf of our entire community, I want to express our profound sorrow and anguish, for this horrific tragedy.
“We are still in shock that a young man, so full of promise, should have his life cut short, so suddenly.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends, and with the entire Bowie State University community.”