The Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — Police have arrested a 17-year-old high school student on a hate-motivated murder charge in the fatal stabbing of a professional dancer during an altercation between two groups of friends at a New York City gas station last weekend.
Police took the teenager into custody Aug. 4 in connection with the killing of the 28-year-old O’Shae Sibley, who was gay. Authorities declined to release the defendant’s name.
“Parents lost a child, a child, to something that was clearly a hate crime,” Mayor Eric Adams, a former police captain, said Aug. 5 during a news conference outside the Brooklyn gas station where Sibley was killed July 29.
The stabbing occurred after the two groups got into a confrontation at one of the gas pumps, where Sibley was dancing with his friends to a Beyoncé song. Authorities said Sibley’s group was being taunted by the other group before the confrontation ended in violence.
Beyoncé would later pay tribute to Sibley on her website.
Security camera video showed the two groups arguing for a few minutes. Both sides had walked away when Sibley and a friend abruptly returned and again confronted one of the young men, who had stayed behind recording on his phone.
In the video, Sibley could be seen following the teen and then lunging at him before the two disappeared out of the camera’s view. A moment later, he walks backward into view, checking his side, and then collapses to the sidewalk.
He was stabbed once in the left rib cage, according to Assistant Police Chief Joe Kenny.
“We can see on the video a heated verbal dispute quickly turns physical,” he said.
“As they waited to refuel their vehicle, Mr. Sibley and his group began dancing to music that was being played in their car. At this point, a male called out to Mr. Sibley and his group demanding that they stop dancing,” Kenny said. “As the group began to yell at Mr. Sibley and his friends, they began to call him derogatory names and use homophobic slurs against him.”
The initial encounter lasted about four minutes, police said, when Sibley and four other men stopped to refuel while traveling home to New York City from New Jersey.
Authorities said the suspect arranged for his surrender through his attorney.
Lee Soulja Simmons, the executive director for the NYC Center for Black Pride, also spoke at the news conference.
“We wrestle with people within our community constantly facing discrimination — not just because you’re Black but because you represent LGBT” communities, he said.
“The fact that he was doing nothing more but voguing and dancing here, he did not deserve to die in that way,” Simmons said.
One of Sibley’s friends who was there, Otis Pena, said in a Facebook video that Sibley was killed because he was gay, and “because he stood up for his friends.”
One witness, Summy Ullah, said in interviews that the men complained that their behavior offended them as Muslims.
Some leaders of the area’s Muslim community condemned the slaying.
“The weight of this loss is felt deeply, not just by the family and friends of O’Shae, but by all of us who value life, peace and justice,” Soniya Ali, the executive director of the Muslim Community Center, said Aug. 5.
“As Muslims, we are committed to stand up for justice, even if it means standing against our own selves,” she said. “We unequivocally condemn the unjust murder of O’Shae.”
Sibley performed with the dance company Philadanco in his native Philadelphia and in New York, where he took classes with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s Ailey Extension program.