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Candlelight vigil held Monday for slain Bowie State student

Rachael Pacella
Contact Reporterrpacella@capgaznews.com

In an auditorium on the Bowie State University campus Monday night, Ltc. Joel Thomas told the hundreds in the room what should be done in the wake of the death of one of his charges, 2nd Lt. Richard Collins III.

Cry and grieve. Remember and laugh. Keep on working. And celebrate Collins by being great everyday.

Thomas, a professor of military science, leads the Bowie State University ROTC. Collins, 23, was a part of that program, and had been commissioned Thursday to join the U.S. Army. He was scheduled to graduate Tuesday with a degree in business administration.

Hundreds filled the Samuel L. Myers Auditorium Monday for a candlelight vigil to honor Collins, who was murdered Saturday on the University of Maryland campus in what police said was an unprovoked stabbing. A Severna Park man, Sean Christopher Urbanski, has been charged with first and second degree murder and is in custody, being held without bond.

UMD police are investigating whether or not hate and bias were motives in the attack, as the alleged attacker was a member of a group called "Alt-Reich" on Facebook.

Classes at Bowie, the state's oldest historically black college or university, were over for the year, but some students who said they didn't personally know Collins still returned for the ceremony. They didn't know him, but they recognized him because they remembered seeing his smile around campus.

Thomas said when he remembers Collins, he will first think of his character.

Character is one of the qualities most valued in a leader, Thomas said. And Collins had that - he was trustworthy, honest and dependable, Thomas said.

People must grieve and cry, Thomas said. Just like the rain earlier in the day Monday which purified the sky and nourished the earth.

"Our tears can purify our minds and nourish our souls," Thomas said.

He also encouraged the audience to laugh at Collins' silliness - laughter has documented healing powers, he said.

Ricardo Mitchell, president of the BSU National Alumni Association, compared Collins to a comet in the night sky — beautiful and joyous.

A slide show of photos was shown, in many of which Collins was either in a military uniform, or wearing a shirt that said "Army."

After remarks from friends and other officials, attendees went outside to stand around a campus landmark, the torch. Above a flame burned on top of a large column; below, orange, green and blue balloons were handed out.

To honor Collins, the balloons were released and floated into the sky, in what remained of the day's light.

In addition to remarks from officials Monday, Bowie State University's Vice President for Student Affairs Artie Travis spoke at a police press briefing Sunday about the grief the campus community is experiencing.

"One of our losses means that all of our students are grieving, all of our families," he said. "We express deepest condolences to Richard and his family and to the family at Bowie State University."

Hate has no place on a college campus, Travis said, where young minds are coming together to try to change the world.

"They can't change the world if they're not here," Travis said. "We look forward to this investigation."

Travis also discussed Collins' involvement with the U.S. Army.

"He is someone who was willing to defend this country and this flag, so we look forward to the results of this investigation, and once again, anything that our leaders in this country, this nation, this state can do to stop hate would be appreciated," he said.

Collins will also be honored at the University of Maryland this week. In an email sent Monday night, campus officials invited the campus community to the Garden of Reflection of Remembrance at the Memorial Chapel on May 24 at 1 p.m. for a moment of reflection.

"We invite the campus community to join us for a moment of reflection hosted by the University Chaplains, to honor Lieutenant Collins and to stand in solidarity with his family, friends and the entire Bowie State University community," the email said.

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