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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Teenager is charged in killing of dancer at Brooklyn gas station

Gorgeous Femmie dances as people gather in front of a gas station during a vigil for O’Shae Sibley, a gay Black man who was killed after dancing at a Brooklyn gas station, in New York on Aug. 4, 2023.

By Hurubie Meko

A 17-year-old has been charged with murder in the killing of O’Shae Sibley, who was stabbed to death July 29 after a dispute over his dancing at a Brooklyn gas station.

Sibley, a gay man who was a professional dancer and choreographer, was returning from New Jersey to his home in Brooklyn with four friends that night when the group stopped at a gas station in the Midwood neighborhood, police said Saturday. As they filled up their car, they played Beyoncé’s “Renaissance” album and began dancing, officials said, at which point a group of men approached and told them to stop.

“We can see on the video the heated verbal dispute quickly turns physical,” Joseph Kenny, an assistant chief at the New York Police Department’s detective bureau, said at a news conference with Mayor Eric Adams announcing the arrest.

The men yelled homophobic slurs and anti-Black statements at Sibley, who was Black, and his friends, Kenny said, all while demanding they stop dancing. Bystanders acted as “peacemakers,” and the men shouting at Sibley’s group began to disperse, Kenny said — except for the defendant.

Video of the encounter, which lasted about four minutes, shows the teenager stabbing Sibley once in the chest, “damaging his heart,” Kenny said. A witness said the teenager then jumped into a Toyota Highlander that sped off. Sibley was taken to Maimonides Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead that night.

The teenager, whom police did not name, lives in Brooklyn and was identified by police this past week using video and by working with other city agencies, Kenny said. The suspect turned himself in through an arrangement with his lawyer, Kenny added. He has been charged with second-degree murder, which has been charged as a hate crime, and with criminal possession of a weapon.

At the news conference, Adams said that Sibley’s family had been affected by something that “clearly” was a hate crime.

“This is a city where you are free to express yourself,” Adams said. “And that expression should never end with any form of violence.”

For many people, the death of Sibley — whom friends described as friendly, fun-loving and passionate about his art — was a shocking and violent reminder of the discrimination LGBTQ+ people face. It inspired an outpouring of grief over several days.

On Thursday evening, about 80 mourners gathered at the Stonewall Inn, the Greenwich Village bar known as the cradle of the gay rights movement. The next night, at an event at the Midwood Mobil station where Sibley was killed, attendees were encouraged to “vogue as an act of resistance” — a reference to the style of dance performed by Sibley and his friends. The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center in Greenwich Village announced it would hold a memorial Saturday evening. Public figures have also paid tribute: On Beyoncé’s website, “Rest in Power O’Shae Sibley” was prominently displayed against a black backdrop.

Summy Ullah, a 32-year-old gas station attendant who witnessed the confrontation, said one of the men who approached Sibley and his friends had said: “I’m Muslim. I don’t want this here.”

At the news conference Saturday, flanked by leaders from the city’s gay and Muslim communities, Adams emphasized that Sibley’s killing was not evidence of hatred directed at LGBTQ+ people by Muslims in New York, and spoke about how both groups have been victims of hate. The two communities “stand united against fighting any form of hate in this city,” he said.

Lee Soulja Simmons, executive director of the NYC Center For Black Pride, said he met Sibley about six years ago when Sibley was performing in an off-Broadway show about Black pride.

Simmons said that Black gay New Yorkers were wrestling with his death, while also living with the specter of hate crimes and discrimination being directed at them because of their identities.

Sibley “was doing nothing more but vogueing and dancing here,” he added. “He did not deserve to die in that way.”

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