The white man who stabbed a newly-commissioned Black U.S. Army second lieutenant to death in May 2017 has been sentenced to life in prison.
Sean Urbanski, 25, was handed his sentence on Jan. 14, according to the Associated Press. He will be eligible for parole.
Army 2nd Lt. Richard Collins III had been visiting friends at the University of Maryland in 2017, and was waiting for an Uber with two friends in the early hours of May 21 when Urbanski, who had been drinking, approached and told Collins to “step left if you know what’s best for you.” Collins said no, which is when Urbanski stabbed him in the chest.
According to the AP, Urbanski then “pocketed the knife and sat down on a bench until police arrived and arrested him.”
Urbanski told Collins’ parents on Thursday that there “hasn’t been a day that’s gone by where I haven’t thought about what I’ve done to you, and if I could switch places with your son I would in a heartbeat.”
Collins had been commissioned in the Army just days before on May 18, and was expected to graduate from Bowie State University and begin his Army career as a military intelligence officer.
Authorities began investigating the murder as a hate crime after finding that Urbanski was a member of “an online Facebook group that posts racist and other inflammatory material,” the Washington Post reported in 2017. The Facebook group was called “Alt-Reich: Nation.”
The hate crime charge was dropped in 2019, however, as Circuit Court Judge Lawrence Hill Jr. ruled that prosecutors didn’t provide enough evidence. The next day, Urbanski was convicted of first-degree murder.
Despite dropping the hate crime charge, Hill said on Thursday that he does believe race (and alcohol) were factors in the murder. According to the AP, Urbanski had three times the legal limit of alcohol in his system the night he stabbed Collins.
“Race is always amongst us in the things we do and things we say,” Hill said, according to the AP. He also noted on Thursday that he ruled against the hate crime charge “before the hate crime law was changed.”
According to the AP, Maryland changed a law earlier this year “so prosecutors don’t have to prove hate is the only motivating factor in committing a crime,” and instead expanded the law to allow for crimes which are either “in whole or in substantial part” motivated by things like race, color, religious beliefs, gender, or sexual orientation.
Collins’ father, Richard Collins Jr., said on Thursday that he and his wife have “come to the realization that racist hate was the murderer’s only motivation for killing our son,” and that they haven’t yet been able to clean out their son’s room.
“My son committed the unpardonable sin of saying, ‘No,’ to a white man,” Collins’ mother, Dawn, told Hill on Thursday according to the AP, adding that her son had planned to follow in his father and grandfather’s footsteps to join the U.S. military and serve their country.
“Not white America. Not Black America,” she said. “The United States of America.”
Featured photo: This combination of photos provided by the U.S. Army and the University of Maryland Police Department shows Richard Collins III, left, and Sean Urbanski. (U.S. Army, University of Maryland Police Department via AP, File)