On Saturday night, according to NBC News, O’Shae Sibley was approached by a random group of strangers while dancing in a parking lot. Witnesses reported the choreographer was having fun with his friends as they grooved and vogued to Beyoncé’s Renaissance album when the strangers told them to stop. When the exchange began to get heated, the 28-year-old tried to defuse the situation, which resulted in someone stabbing him in his torso.
Following “a few fights and back and forth arguing, [someone] pulled out a knife and stabbed him,” Sayeda Haider, a bystander who witnessed the incident, told NBC News.
Traumatized by what he witnessed, Otis Pena, one of Sibley’s friends who was out with him the night of the crime, posted a video on Facebook showing him in distress while sharing with his friends what happened.
“They killed O’Shea. They killed him right in front of me. I was covered in his blood and I’m holding his stab wound. And O’Shea was just trying to tell people ‘Yea, we gay but it’s not calling for all that’ and he stabbed him. He stabbed him right in the heart,” he said, crying.
“They murdered him. They murdered him because he was gay…because he stood up for his friends,” he added.
An employee of the gas station told Gothamist, “These people were like ‘we’re Muslim, I don’t want you dancing.”
Gothamist reported that the employee said the “initial instigators were friends of a man who works at a nearby smoke shop and frequently comes by the gas station to use the restroom.”
“The gay people, they were not trying to fight,” the employee Summy Ullah said. “The smoke shop kid and his friend started this.”
Ullah also tried to intervene, telling the group, “There’s no point of fighting. Just leave.”
The New York Times reports the group called Sibley and his friends slurs before the fatal stabbing occurred.
According to Gothamist,
After a few minutes, Sibley and his friends turn to head back to their white sedan. But one of the men in the other group begins filming them with his phone, prompting Sibley and two of his friends to come back to the front of the store to continue the confrontation. A bystander appears to try to come in between the groups to diffuse the situation, but Sibley and the men disappear for a few seconds around the side of the store.
When Sibley is fully visible again, he has been stabbed, and appears stunned on the sidewalk as his friends scramble to stop the bleeding from his wound.”
The New York Police Department has put this in the hands of its hate crimes task force to investigate the case. Although there have been no arrests at this time, there is a 17-year-old suspect officers are searching for, according to NBC New York. Mayor Eric Adams spoke on Sibley’s passing during a press conference Monday concerning public safety.
“Now, you have an incident like we saw over the weekend with this young man who was experiencing that hate crime, and we will find the person responsible,” Adams told the media. “It shakes our confidence when you have someone that randomly assaults someone, who could have a real mental health issue, on the streets. It shakes your confidence.”
According to a briefing document from the Department of Homeland Security, hate crimes against the LGBTQ+ community have significantly increased within the past year.
“The sad reality is that even in New York City, LGBTQ+ people are still subjected to increased violence, simply for being themselves,” Beverly Tillery, executive director of the New York City Anti-Violence Project, said. “Anti-LGBTQ+ bias can turn deadly, and we must all work to eliminate it from our society.”
She continued, “O’Shae deserved the right to dance, to be free and unapologetically queer — without fear.”
Sibley’s aunt, Tondra Sibley, told The New York Times, “It was a senseless crime. O’Shae has always been a peacemaker. All he wanted to do was dance.”
Per Gothamist, she said he moved to Brooklyn from Philadelphia three years ago to pursue his dance career. His featured projects include An Eclectic Dance to the Music of Time, which was featured at Lincoln Center.
“He was a gentle spirit,” Tondra Sibley told the outlet. “Everyone that knew him knew that he was always smiling… he loved people, he loved dancing, he loved teaching dance.”
Calling the killing “senseless,” she hopes justice will be served.
She continued, “Why would a person feel they have the right [to kill] just because they disagree with them? So you’re gonna stab everybody you disagree with? Is that what you’re gonna do?”