The fatal stabbing of a 28-year-old gay man, a professional dancer who previously studied at Philadelphia Dance Company, is being investigated by the NYPD as a hate crime. The victim, O’Shae Sibley, was a native Philadelphian and a talented dancer who had performed with major dance groups.
In a Monday press conference, New York City Mayor Eric Adams called the incident a “hate crime” while addressing the city’s efforts to tackle crime.
“We have an incident like we saw over the weekend where this young man was experiencing a hate crime,” Adams said. “We will find this person. It shakes our confidence.”
A 17-year-old is now being sought in connection to Sibley’s killing. Law enforcement sources have identified the suspect as a teen who remains at large.
On Saturday, July 29, Sibley and a group of friends — other dancers — were voguing to Beyoncé’s music at a Brooklyn gas station, just blocks from Sibley’s home, when a group of men started hurling homophobic comments. Witnesses say the men claimed the dancers’ actions violated their religious beliefs and they didn’t want such actions in their neighborhood. The altercation escalated and according to NYPD officials, Sibley was stabbed in the chest by one of the men.
“He had a problem with them dancing, he wanted them to stop dancing, he started arguing with them. And then after a few fights and back and forth arguing, he pulled out a knife and stabbed him,” witness Sayeda Haider told NBC New York.
In a video posted to Facebook, Sibley’s friend Otis Pena said he and Sibley were among a group of friends that were voguing and dancing at the gas station while pumping gas when another group confronted them. The group hurled homophobic slurs at Sibley’s group, according to Pena.
Both Sibley and Pena told the men, “Stop saying that. There is nothing wrong with being gay.”
“They murdered him because he was gay, because he stood up for his friends,” Pena said.
Pena called Sibley a “beacon of light.”
“He was just saying we may be gay, and we’re listening to our music, but there’s no hate, it’s all love — when you stabbed him,” Pena said. “You stabbed my brother.”
Pena had pressed on Sibley’s wound to stop the bleeding as they awaited an ambulance. Sibley was taken to Maimonides Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.
Sibley, who was one of 11 siblings, had moved from Philadelphia prior to the pandemic, “hoping New York would provide more auditions and opportunities,” said his aunt, Tondra Sibley.
“It was a senseless crime,” she said. “O’Shae has always been a peacemaker. All he wanted to do was dance.”
The killing has sparked outrage and on Tuesday, Beyoncé paid tribute to Sibley. “REST IN POWER O’SHAE SIBLEY,” Beyoncé wrote on her official website.
Joan Myers Brown, founder of the Philadelphia Dance Company, known as Philadanco!, told the Inquirer that she got a call about the stabbing late Saturday night. “They had their shirts off because it was hot outside,” Myers Brown said. “He told them they were just dancing and having a good time.”
“He was trying to calm them down when the boys jumped on him,” Myers Brown said.
New York State Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal, who is gay, posted on Twitter/X, “Heartbroken and enraged to learn about O’Shae Sibley’s death this weekend in New York. Despite homophobes’ best efforts, gay joy is not crime. Hate-fueled attacks are.”
The Alvin Ailey American Dance Foundation’s Ailey Extension posted on Facebook about Sibley’s murder, noting, “The Ailey organization mourns the tragic death of O’Shae Sibley, following an attack outside of a Brooklyn gas station on Saturday night.”
The Foundation paid tribute to Sibley saying, “O’Shae was a cherished and devoted Ailey Extension student. He had incredible energy in the studio and was loved by instructors and fellow classmates.”
“We are shocked and heartbroken that O’Shae’s life has been taken by senseless violence and extend our sincere condolences to his family and loved ones,” they said.
Kemar Jewel, a choreographer, paid tribute to Sibley on Instagram.
“O’Shae was one of the closest things to family that I ever had,” Jewel said in the post. “We checked on each other. We loved each other and we were always there when the other needed it. We were invested in each other’s well-being and growth and I knew that we were bonded together forever.”
Jewel called Sibley a “bright-eyed and goofy young man who had talent beyond anything I’d seen before,” adding that he “could sing, he could do hip hop, jazz, ballet, tap, anddddddd he was an incredible voguer!”
The New York Times reported that Jewel met Sibley 13 years ago at the Attic Youth Center and that Sibley saw him as a mentor. “He was like, ‘You’re my uncle. I’m going to call you uncle,’” Jewel told the Times.
On Tuesday, GLAAD released a statement regarding Sibley’s death and highlighting other hate crime-related killings in recent weeks, calling Sibley’s death part of a “disturbing rise in violence and harassment.”
GLAAD said the organization has been “tracking escalating violence against LGBTQ people, including at least a half dozen murders over the last weeks across the country.”
GLAAD said, “Sibley’s shocking murder follows a disturbing rise in violence and harassment against LGBTQ people across the U.S. This cannot continue. No one should have to fear for their safety just for being themselves. Politicians spewing lies and proposing policies filled with disinformation, and media repeating their false and dangerous rhetoric unchallenged, are creating an incredibly hostile environment that endangers all LGBTQ people and all queer people of color.”
Darian Aaron, GLAAD Director of Local News, U.S. South, said in a statement, “There are reports that Sibley was vogueing to a track from Beyoncé’s Renaissance album, music from the biggest pop star in the world celebrating Black queer people. O’Shae Sibley had the audacity to live without the restraints of patriarchy and toxic masculinity, embracing freedom and joy. He should still be alive to celebrate all that made him great and inspired others to live their truth.”
Aaron continued, “GLAAD urges media to challenge harmful rhetoric, report on LGBTQ lives accurately and inclusively, and elevate our humanity and right to live in peace and safety. GLAAD grieves with O’Shae Sibley’s friends, family, the dance community and the entire LGBTQ community for the loss of their loved one, and for the loss of a talent like O’Shae, whose gifts and beauty will forever be missed.”
Beckenbaur Hamilton, an older neighbor who lived in the same building as Sibley, and who is also gay, told CBS news that he worried about Sibley.
“O’Shae wasn’t afraid of being who he was,” Hamilton said. “He would defend his friends.”
Hamilton said, “But I’d see how people looked at them. There was a worry in the back of my mind.”
In his video, Pena, who said he and Sibley were “always out and loud” said, “We as a community don’t deserve this. We may be gay, but we exist. We’re not going to live in fear. We’re not going to live hiding.”
“The incident is being investigated as a possible biased incident,” a spokesperson for the New York City Police Department told PGN.
There is surveillance footage from the scene, as well as Pena’s video.
No arrests had been made at presstime.Anyone with information about Sibley’s death is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477), or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782). You can also submit a tip via their website or via DM on Twitter, @NYPDTips. All calls are kept confidential.