BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Hundreds of people packed the auditorium at Bowie State University on Monday night to remember Richard Collins III. Friends say this world lost a courageous soul, just commissioned to serve in the army.
One day before what was should have been his graduation celebration, Bowie State University is grieving for Richard Collins III. Collins was a new army lieutenant, commissioned just last week, even his commanding officer broke down in tears.
Richard Collins III was a standout in ROTC, and just became a Second Lieutenant. He was committed to serving our country, but what’s being investigated as a possible hate crime stripped him of that opportunity.
The mood could be felt throughout campus Monday, as a school that’s just hours away from celebrating graduation instead mourns the loss of one of their own.
“It’s been pretty sad, it’s been pretty gloomy,” said Bowie State senior Selena Slaughter.
The murder of 23-year-old senior Collins has rocked all of Bowie State.
Collins was a business administration major. His elementary and middle school teacher said he was brilliant.
“To see something like this happen is just heartbreaking,” she said.
“It was deeply saddening and disturbing,” said Lt. Col. Joel Thomas, professor at Bowie State.
His death has been a tragedy some refused to believe.
“I just couldn’t believe it,” said Slaughter. “I couldn’t believe it was him. I thought maybe it was mistaken identity.”
It perhaps hit Collins’ ROTC family the hardest, where the senior was a rare breed.
“Richard was an outstanding kid,” said Lt. Col. Thomas. “He was everything we looked for in an officer.”
Murdered just days after he was one of the select few to be commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the Army.
[Reporter: “When you thought, Richard Collins, what did you think of for his future?] “Excellence, he was on his way to being an outstanding leader in the United States Army,” Thomas said.
The 23-year old had the passion and drive that many felt was contagious.
“He had the three D’s,” said cross country coach Michelle Latimer. “He was determined, dedicated, and devoted to what he had set his mind to do.”
Collins was a young man described as selfless.
“He’s the type of guy that would give you his last dollar if you needed it,” said a friend at the vigil.
He has left an impact on Bowie State and far beyond. His fellow classmates looked up to him.
“He made an amazing impact on people. You could talk to him for an hour and you wouldn’t forget him,” Slaughter said.
An intelligent young man whose future was limitless.
“I believe his humbleness was going to carry him a long way because he cared about people,” Latimer said.
But he was murdered before he could serve his country.
“We hope to have plenty more like him to continue on the work he started and what he was about to do, which was lead American soldiers,” said Lt. Col. Thomas.
A family spokesperson for Collins’ family says he was out celebrating the night he was murdered.
Collins’ colonel says one of the last things he heard him say was a quote at his commissioning ceremony. “When there is no way…make a way,” he says that’s who Collins was. He overcame all obstacles.
“They took away a blessing from us,” said Karen Cain, an elementary/middle school teacher and a middle school friend of Richard’s.
In addition to family and friends, dignitaries were also at Bowie State to honor Collins.
The governor and first lady said they were devastated to learn about Collins’ death. The governor also said the individual responsible must be prosecuted.
Officials say they’re planning a moment of silence for Collins at Bowie State’s graduation ceremony on Tuesday.