The College Park City Council held a moment of silence at its meeting Tuesday night to honor Richard Collins III.
“The City of College Park sends its deepest condolences to the family of Lt. Richard Collins III,” said Mayor Patrick Wojahn. “It really struck me to the core that a weekend that should have been for celebration devolved into this.”
Collins, a former student at Bowie State University, was killed on the University of Maryland campus Saturday. Collins was a newly commissioned second lieutenant in the U.S. Army and was set to graduate on Tuesday.
Sean Christopher Urbanski, a 22-year-old student at this university, was charged with first- and second-degree murder, as well as first-degree assault, in connection with the stabbing of Collins.
University Police are working with the FBI to determine whether the incident was a hate crime. Urbanski is white, and Collins was black.
A vigil for Collins, which Wojahn attended, was held on Monday at Bowie State University.
At the council meeting, Wojahn commended the work of University Police, Prince George’s County Police and the FBI in conducting their investigation in a thorough and respectful manner.
“Last Saturday’s heinous attack that claimed the life of a bright young man on the University of Maryland campus has left our community deeply saddened and troubled,” Wojahn said. “Recent information from the ongoing investigation has led law enforcement to consider if this crime was motivated by hate.”
District 2 Councilman P.J. Brennan said the city of College Park and this university needs to continue a dialogue about race and prejudices.
“We need to listen to each other’s experiences, and not try to find an immediate solution to the experience, but to just listen,” he said.
“I would also like to acknowledge the outcry that has come from the community after the recent murder,” Brennan added. “Racial bias is not isolated to the UMD campus. I think it’s pervasive in our society.”
Members of the university community took to Twitter after Collins’ death to share their thoughts, fears and experiences of racism, discrimination and hate on the campus with the hashtag #FearTheTurtle.
Brennan also suggested several measures this university could take to help reduce racial biases on the campus, including an increase in tenure-tracked African-American professors and mandatory diversity training.
Collins was killed not long after the council addressed an incident in which a noose was found hanging in the kitchen of this university’s Phi Kappa Tau chapter house on Fraternity Row. University Police are investigating the event as a hate bias incident.
Then, District 3 Councilman Robert Day spoke out against hate.
“Several weeks ago, I made a statement that hate and bigotry will never be accepted in our city,” Day said. “It breaks my heart that we have to send condolences to a family whose child visited our campus.”
Day said he has a son who attends Bowie State University and frequently visits this university.
“He spends a lot of time going back and forth, so when incidents like this happen you have to speak to your kids about what it really means,” Day added. “It’s not always about what people do to him, but how he perceives and how he reacts [to these situations].”
Dave Olfky, a lifelong resident of College Park, was moved by the council’s show of support in the face of tragedy.
“This was a young life taken, and it’s just never a good time for any of this to happen,” said Olfky. “But when you end up with a council that reacts this quickly to something, it kind of lends itself to starting the healing process, and I think that’s what we saw here tonight.”