A Black Man Was Killed by a Suspect with Ties to a Far-Right Facebook Page

May 22nd 2017

Mike Rothschild

Last Saturday night, Bowie State University senior Richard Collins III, a black man, was stabbed to death by a suspect with ties to a far-right Facebook group.

Collins, who was set to graduate from Bowie State on May 23, was visiting friends at the University of Maryland first. While there, Collins and his friends were approached by Maryland student Sean Christopher Urbanski. According to eyewitness reports in the Baltimore Sun, Urbanski was apparently drunk and incoherent when he approached Collins, warning him to "step left, step left if you know what's best for you."

When Collins refused, Urbanski allegedly stabbed Collins in the chest with a three-to-four inch knife, and Collins died at a local hospital. Urbanski was arrested after the murder was caught on a surveillance camera, and is being held without bond on first-degree murder charges. Authorities, including the FBI, are investing the killing as a possible hate crime, according to the Baltimore Sun.

At this point, the motive behind the crime is unknown, and the two men didn't know each other. But while the attack didn't immediately appear to be racially motivated, investigators quickly found that Urbanski was a member of Facebook group called "Alt-Reich Nation."

The small group has been taken down, but screenshots captured before it was disabled show "the purpose of this group is subversive activities against leftist pages and uploading fashy memes." In a press conference after Urbanski was arrested, University Police Chief David Mitchell called the Facebook group "despicable" and said it showed "extreme bias against women, Latinos, members of the Jewish faith and especially African Americans."



Collins' killing is the latest high profile of example of a minority being targeted by a white attacker with seeming ties to the far right.

In March of 2016, a 28-year-old white man named James Harris Jackson drove to New York City and stabbed a 65-year-old African American man, Timothy Caughman, to death. He would later admit he drove to the city with the explicit purpose of killing black men with a sword. Caughman also planned to attack an interracial couple before he turned himself in to authorities.

In June of 2015, self-described white supremacist Dylann Roof shot and killed nine black parishioners at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church. In his manifesto, Roof explains how he was radicalized by online writings, and how he viewed blacks as "stupid and violent." 

These incidents show how, despite media hysteria about Islamic terrorism, extremists driven by racial animus are a consistent to threat to Americans.

Up until the Pulse Nightclub massacre — in which a U.S. born man who claimed allegiance to the Islamic State killed 49 people — far right-wing groups had accounted for a higher proportion of terrorist killings on American soil, according to the national security think tank New America.

As Newsweek reported in 2015, the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security's survey of nearly 400 agencies found that "Law enforcement agencies in the United States consider anti-government violent extremists, not radicalized Muslims, to be the most severe threat of political violence that they face."

While the motive behind the attack on Collins is still being put together, the media can at least be commended from learning from its mistakes in the case of the Caughman killing. In that case, Jackson was praised for his "sharp looking overcoat" and his service in the U.S. Army, while Caughman's prior arrest record was single out, as if it caused or justified his murder.

This time, stabbing victim Collins was praised for his community involvement, academic record, and, ironically, his service in the U.S. Army, as he'd just been commissioned as an officer.