A dancer is fatally stabbed after a confrontation in New York, prompting a tribute from Beyoncé
MIDWOOD — The fatal stabbing of a gay man after a confrontation between a group of friends who were dancing to a Beyoncé song and young men who apparently took offense has outraged New York City’s LGBTQ community and spurred Beyoncé herself to post a tribute on her website.
No arrests have been made in Saturday’s stabbing of O’Shae Sibley, a 28-year-old professional dancer, at a Brooklyn gas station.
Police have released few details on the investigation and haven’t discussed a motive, but a friend who was there, Otis Pena, said in an emotional Facebook video that Sibley died “because he stood up for his friends.”
Sibley performed with the dance company Philadanco in his native Philadelphia and in New York. He used dance to celebrate his LGBTQ identity in works such as “ Soft: A Love Letter to Black Queer Men,” choreographed by Kemar Jewel.
Sibley took classes with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s Ailey Extension program, whose director, Lisa Johnson-Willingham, said in a statement, “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.”
Sibley was at a Mobil station in Midwood with friends getting gas, listening to Beyoncé’s “Renaissance” album “and just having a good time,” Pena said in his video.
News reports have widely described Sibley as having been stabbed while dancing, but security camera video shows a more complex situation.
The video, obtained by several news organizations, shows some of the men in Sibley’s group doing a dance-like strut by their car, shirtless in bathing suits. A short time later, Sibley walks to the gas station’s convenience store and starts speaking with a young man, who looks agitated. As they talk, a small crowd gathers.
Sibley’s friends join him and the group argues with the person for about two minutes. Then, both sides walk away. Sibley and his friends go back to their car. Everyone else goes inside the gas station’s convenience store except for one person who stays outside recording with his phone.
Sibley is about to get into a car when he and a friend freeze, then briskly stride back toward the person with the phone as if he had said something that angered them.
The young man, who looks like he could be in his teens, retreats, walking backward as Sibley advances. A man comes out of the convenience store and steps between them. Then, Sibley lunges around the man at the teen, who leaps backward. Both figures move out of view of the camera.
It isn’t clear from the video when Sibley is stabbed or who wields the knife. A moment later he walks back into view looking stunned and checking his side.
Sibley was taken to a nearby hospital, where he died.
A witness, Summy Ullah, told the Daily News the young men had been harassing Sibley’s group because their behavior offended them.
“They were saying, ‘Oh, we’re Muslim, so don’t do this in front of me,’” said Ullah, 32.
Ullah added, “Nothing else was going on. They were only dancing.” He said someone asked, “Why are you dancing in your underwear?”
In his video, posted hours after Sibley’s death, Pena choked back tears while recalling the stabbing of the man he called “the salt to my pepper, the peanut butter to my jelly.”
“They murdered him because he was gay,” he said.
A “Justice for O’Shae Sibley” memorial is planned Friday at the Mobil station, and a vigil is planned on Saturday at Manhattan’s LGBTQ Community Center. A celebration of life ceremony will take place Tuesday in Philadelphia.
Beyoncé’s website now flashes the message “Rest in power O’Shae Sibley.”
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