July 13, 2017 / 8:55 PM / 2 years ago

White Maryland student indicted in black Army officer's murder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A grand jury indicted a white former University of Maryland student for murder on Thursday in the stabbing death of a black U.S. Army officer that is still being investigating as a possible hate crime, authorities said.

Sean Urbanski, 22, of Severna Park, Maryland, who was a member of a racist Facebook group, was indicted for common-law murder over the on-campus death of Lieutenant Richard Collins III in May, said John Erzen, a spokesman for the Prince George’s County state’s attorney.

“Right now, the investigation into the motive, including whether it was a hate crime, is still ongoing,” Erzen said in a telephone interview.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation was helping police analyze Urbanski’s digital devices. “We expect that to conclude in the coming weeks,” Erzen said.

Witnesses have told police that an intoxicated and incoherent Urbanski approached Collins and two friends on a campus sidewalk early on May 20.

He told Collins, who had been commissioned as a lieutenant a few days before, “Step left, step left if you know what’s good for you.”

When a puzzled Collins said, “No,” Urbanski stabbed him in the chest. Collins, 23, died a few days before he was to graduate from Maryland’s Bowie State University.

Police arrested Urbanski on the University of Maryland campus in a Washington suburb.

A police investigation showed that Urbanski was part of the Alt-Reich group on Facebook, where members post disparaging material about African-Americans, Jews and others.

Erzen said prosecutors planned to seek life without parole for Urbanski, who remains jailed without bond. His attorney, William Brennan, did not respond to a request for comment.

Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Leslie Adler

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