BOWIE, Md. — The night before Bowie State University’s graduation on Tuesday, colorful balloons disappeared into a darkening sky in solemn remembrance.
Richard Collins III, 23, was a Bowie State student who was about to graduate and was just commissioned last week to join the Army as second lieutenant. But in the early hours of Saturday, he was stabbed to death on the University of Maryland’s College Park campus.
“Lt. Collins was funny, brilliant — not just smart — he was brilliant,” said Talitha Royster, who commissioned with Collins, at a Monday night vigil for the slain student.
The man charged in connection to the fatal stabbing of Collins, who is black, is 22-year-old Sean Urbanski, who is white. Urbanski was allegedly a member of a white supremacist Facebook group, according to officials investigating the case.
The FBI and University of Maryland police are investigating whether the stabbing was a possible hate crime.
“Celebrate his life, but celebrate it in a manner particular to Richard,” Lt. Col. Joel Thomas, professor of military science, told the vigil crowd. He cried at the podium.
“Celebrate it by being great at everything you do.”
Julian Harrell also commissioned with Collins, saying, “We came into the program together three years ago. Anytime I needed help on anything ROTC-related, school-related, anything, I went to him.”
“When I heard about the news, I couldn’t even believe it. I was like, there’s no way. There’s no possible way. I love you, man. I’ll never forget you for the rest of my life,” Harrell said through tears.
Dr. Shirelle Briscoe, assistant vice president for academic affairs, had more advice for students, family and friends: “Your charge from Richard is to stand firm. Because even in his last days, in his last hours, based on reports, he stood firm for what he believed in.”
“This hurts all of us. In some sense, it diminishes all of us,” said university President Mickey Burnim.
Burnim concluded, “We can’t let that be the final word. We have to express our love for each other, appreciation for life, and do all that we can to make a positive difference. Let’s honor the memory of Lt. Richard Collins III.”
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