A University of Maryland student arrested in a fatal stabbing that authorities are investigating as a possible hate crime was ordered to remain in jail without the possibility of bail but could be considered for GPS-monitored release at a later date.

Sean Urbanski, 22, made his first appearance before a judge today since his arrest in the weekend slaying of Bowie State University student Richard Collins, 23.

Urbanski's lawyer, William C. Brennan, told the judge that "alcohol and substance abuse may have played a significant role in all of this".

Urbanski, of Severna Park, Maryland, was charged with murder and assault in what police called a "totally unprovoked" attack that occurred on the College Park campus.

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Prince George's County District Court Judge Patrice Lewis said there was "clear and convincing" evidence that Urbanski "is an absolute danger to the community" before denying him pretrial release. Lewis did say, however, that Brennan could ask to have him considered for release under GPS monitoring in the future.

Brennan had asked the judge to order GPS monitoring and other release conditions. Brennan said his client has no criminal record, has deep ties to the Maryland community and was reportedly intoxicated during the alleged attack.

Yesterday, University of Maryland police announced the FBI's involvement in the case to determine whether the attack on Collins, who was black, was a hate crime.

Urbanski, who is white, was part of an online Facebook group that posts racist material, police and FBI officials said.

Collins was visiting two friends on the University of Maryland campus on Sunday. As the group was waiting for an Uber ride on Regents Drive near Montgomery Hall they heard Urbanski screaming as he approached the trio, according to police charging documents.

"Step left, step left if you know what's best for you," Urbanski told Collins, according to charging papers.

Collins said, "No," police said. Urbanski continued to come toward the group and then stabbed Collins in the chest, police said.

Collins was taken to a hospital, where he died. Urbanski was picked up by Prince George's County police about 15m from where Collins had collapsed, court papers state. Police recovered a knife from Urbanski's front right pocket, police said.

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The attack unnerved students and administrators at Bowie State University and the University of Maryland, which are both in the middle of spring graduation celebrations.

Friends, family and fellow students honoured Collins with a candlelight vigil on Bowie State's campus and with a moment of silence before tomorrow's commencement, when Collins was set to graduate.

Collins, from Calvert County, was airborne certified, said a family spokesman, the Rev. Darryl Godlock. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the US Army last week.

"The parents are totally devastated that their young son, that was at the peak of his career about to take off, and his life was taken away senselessly," said Godlock, a pastor at Calvert County Baptist Church in Prince Frederick, Maryland.

Interview requests left by phone and at a home believed to be that of his family, based on court filings, were not responded to.

Before attending the University of Maryland, Urbanski received a degree in transfer studies from Anne Arundel Community College, college officials confirmed. Urbanski attended the community college from January 2015 to August 2016.

Racially charged incidents have unsettled college campuses throughout the Washington region. In recent months, white supremacist fliers posted on the campus where Collins was attacked read, "It is your civic duty to report any and all illegal aliens" and "They are criminals. America is a white nation."

University of Maryland police chief David Mitchell said authorities would not tolerate any racially motivated threats, harm or violence.

"Anyone who feels empowered by what happened," Mitchell said at a news conference, "the only thing I can say is that if you want to harm our students, you are going to have to go through us".

People gather for a candlelight vigil at a bus shelter at the University of Maryland in College Park, Maryland. Photo / AP
People gather for a candlelight vigil at a bus shelter at the University of Maryland in College Park, Maryland. Photo / AP

Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker said that hate has no place in the community.

"Lieutenant Collins was everything we want our youth to aspire to - selfless devotion to our nation and an individual who was willing to serve and sacrifice for our country's safety and security," Baker said. "This murder has shocked and disturbed us all. This act of violence is unacceptable in any community in Prince George's County."

The bus stop where Collins was stabbed had become a makeshift memorial. Many unlit candles dotted the bus stop bench and a few bouquets of flowers had been left there.

Diane Teichert, 64, of University Park, came to the stop with her 31-year-old son, Ross Milton. They brought pink roses from her garden and wedged them in the bench.

She said she didn't know Collins but said she had come out because "I feel like that white people need to be as sad and as angry as black people about these incidents, so that we are motivated to change the oppression that still exists in our country, still is persisting."

Teichert, who is white, said she felt "terrible sadness, and anger, and sorrow, for that young man's family," she said, her voice growing more emotional. "And renewed energy to try to do something about it. Which, I don't think putting some flowers at a memorial is enough."