Teen suspect in O’Shae Sibley killing pleads not guilty

O'Shae Sibley memorial

The 17-year-old suspect accused of fatally stabbing gay dancer O’Shae Sibley has pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree murder as a hate crime. 

Professional dancer Sibley, 28, was voguing with friends at a petrol station on Coney Island Avenue in Brooklyn, New York on 29 July, when they were approached by a group of young men.

According to prosecutors, the group shouted homophobic and racist slurs at Sibley and his friends before the suspect stabbed Sibley in the chest.

The suspect, who made his first court appearance on Friday (11 August), has been identified as Dmitriy Popov – a student in his final year at a local secondary school.

Popov was indicted by a grand jury on Thursday (10 August) and arraigned on Friday on charges of second-degree murder as a hate crime, second-degree murder, first-degree manslaughter as a hate crime, first-degree manslaughter, fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon and related counts.

Popov entered a plea of not guilty on all charges.

You may like to watch

The 17-year-old suspect faces a minimum of 20 years in jail and a maximum of 25 years to life.

Popov’s lawyer, Mark Pollard, told reporters: “Nothing about his past or his history shows that he’s the type of person to commit this crime.”

Pollard also denied that Popov had used any anti-gay or anti-Black slurs, and intimated that his client may argue that he acted in self-defence.

However, Brooklyn district attorney Eric Gonzalez emphasised the importance of prosecuting the incident as a hate crime.

At a news conference on Thursday, Gonzalez said: “We’re going to stand up for Mr Sibley, for the right he had to dance and be exuberant, the right he had not to stop dancing because it offended someone else.

“Hate crimes impact a victim, but it also impacts a community. It robs not just the family, but an entire community of their sense of safety and security.”

Gonzalez described Sibley’s death as “tragic and senseless”.

O'Shae Sibley
O’Shae Sibley was fatally stabbed (Facebook)

Professional dancer and choreographer Sibley was reportedly voguing to songs from Beyoncé’s Renaissance album with friends at the gas station in the Midwood area when he was fatally stabbed in the chest.

Sibley’s death has sparked an outpouring of grief in the US and around the world. Hundreds of people congregated at the location of the stabbing on 4 August for a vigil featuring defiant voguing – a form of dance originating from queer, Black ballroom culture in the 1980s. 

Renaissance, Beyoncé’s latest album, pays homage to queer ballroom culture in its music and aesthetic. The record was also part-dedicated to her late gay uncle, Johnny.

Beyoncé herself has paid tribute to Sibley, updating her website to feature the message “Rest in power O’Shae Sibley”. 

Sibley’s funeral was held on Tuesday (8 August) and saw more than 200 mourners gather to pay their respects to the dancer.

A lover of dance from the age of three, Sibley trained and performed with Philadanco! – the Philadelphia Dance Company – and went on to dance with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York.

Popov’s next court date is in October.

Anyone who has witnessed or experienced a hate crime is urged to call the police on 101, Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or visit the True Vision website. In an emergency, always dial 999.

Please login or register to comment on this story.