17-year-old pleads not guilty in hate crime murder of Brooklyn dancer O’Shae Sibley

August 14, 2023 Rob Abruzzese
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The Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office announced the indictment of a 17-year-old on Friday for the murder of O’Shae Sibley, a local dancer and choreographer. That 17-year-old, identified as Dmitriy Popov, later pleaded not guilty to hate crime murder.

“O’Shae came to New York to follow his dream and brightened our city with his light,” District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said. “We honor his life, celebrate his courage, and commit to hold accountable the individual allegedly responsible for this horrific murder. O’Shae and his friends were targeted for being themselves, dancing joyfully and harming no one. There is no tolerance for hate in Brooklyn, where we value our diversity, inclusion and the freedom to be who we are.”

According to the DA’s Office, on July 29, Sibley and his friends were merely celebrating life, dancing at a Mobil gas station in Midwood after a day at the beach. However, joy quickly turned to horror as they faced homophobic and racist slurs from Popov and his companions.

The chilling sequence, as recounted by witnesses and alleged by authorities, began with Popov and two associates hurling derogatory remarks. Despite attempts by Sibley and his friends to defuse the situation, it escalated. After his friends left, Popov allegedly continued the verbal assault, which culminated in a deadly physical confrontation. Sibley was stabbed, resulting in his tragic death shortly after.

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Mark Pollard, Popov’s lawyer, claims that his client’s actions were in self-defense and denies allegations of hate speech. However, prosecutors are gearing up to prove that the act was fueled by prejudice against the LGBTQ and Black communities.

The incident has left the city in shock; and vigils, protests, and outpourings of grief are echoing throughout the nation. The LGBTQ community, in particular, feels the weight of this loss deeply. The act of voguing, a dance form intimately linked with resistance and self-expression in LGBTQ circles (originating in Harlem ballroom culture), became a symbol of this tragedy.

Sibley’s impact on the dance community was profound. From his early days with the Philadelphia Dance Company to teaching at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, he touched countless lives. A scholarship has been established in his honor to inspire others to pursue their passions.

The profound words of Black gay activist Lee Soulja Simmons, captured the sentiment of many: “He did not deserve to die in that way.”


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