The mother of a Brooklyn dancer killed in an alleged homophobic hate crime prepared for his funeral Monday as the suspect appeared in a courtroom for teen defendants.
Onetha Sibley told Gothamist she was going to view the body of her son, O’Shae Sibley, one last time before the funeral at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday at The Met Philadelphia, a concert venue not far from where he grew up.
The killing of O’Shae, 28, has prompted marches, vigils and demonstrations. Beyoncé posted a tribute on her website that read “Rest in Power O’Shae Sibley.” Onetha said she was grateful for the outpouring of support.
“I love how they loving on my boy,” she said.
Onetha had attended an event Saturday honoring her son.
“It was really nice, they chanted his name,” she told Gothamist by phone. “I’m like, ‘Baby, look what you’ve done, you really touched a lot of people.’ I didn’t know it was this big.”
Meanwhile, the accused killer, Dmitriy Popov, 17, was ordered held without bail on charges of second degree murder as a hate crime after appearing in the youth part of Brooklyn criminal court.
A criminal complaint released by the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office corroborated witness accounts to Gothamist that the fatal stabbing at a Mobil gas station in Midwood began as an argument over how Sibley and his friends were dancing. Sibley was “vogueing” to Beyoncé’s “Renaissance” album, according to a witness.
Prosecutors say Popov was part of a group that told Sibley to stop, saying the dancing offended their Muslim faith. Popov also made a homophobic insult before stabbing Sibley in the chest, according to the complaint.
Popov is charged as an adult and could face a sentence of 20 years to life if convicted. He pleaded not guilty. His attorney, Mark Henry Pollard, told Gothamist that Popov is not Muslim.
“He’s a 17-year-old Christian boy, I’m not sure where the Muslim angle came in,” Pollard said.
“He goes to church, high school senior, two jobs, lives with his mom as most kids do…He’s not a Muslim.”
On Saturday, Mayor Eric Adams was joined at a press conference about the case by members of the Muslim community who spoke out against the murder, saying it contradicts the teachings of the Quran.
“As Muslims, we are commanded to stand up for justice even if it means standing against our own selves. We unequivocally condemn the unjust murder of O’Shae,” said Soniya Ali, executive director of Muslim Community Center.
Adams noted that the LGBTQ+ and Muslim communities were too often victims of hate and discrimination.
“Their voices have been loud and clear that they stand united against fighting any form of hate in this city,” Adams said. “This is a city where you are free to express yourself and that expression should never end with any form of violence.”
Onetha Sibley said she hopes Popov will remain in custody, but doesn’t wish him harm.
“I know somewhere, sometime, before I close my eyes, I’ll have to forgive this kid for killing my son,” she said. “Just make sure this boy doesn’t get back on the streets.”