Teen accused of stabbing O’Shae Sibley in homophobic attack is a ‘good Christian boy’, lawyer says

17-year-old Dmitriy Popov’s lawyer and family countered claims from eyewitnesses that the suspect had said he was Muslim

Bevan Hurley
Tuesday 08 August 2023 20:34 BST
Memorial remembers O'Shae Sibley

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A teenager accused of fatally stabbing Black dancer O’Shae Sibley in an alleged racist and homophobic attack was described by his lawyer as a “good Christian boy”.

Dmitriy Popov, 17, had reportedly claimed he was Muslim during a deadly confrontation with Sibley and his friends over their shirtless “voguing” dance moves at a Mobil gas station in Brooklyn on 29 July.

Mr Popov has been arraigned as an adult on murder and hate crime charges and ordered to be held without bail after allegedly going on the run for a week after the killing.

Mr Popov’s lawyer Mark Pollard told The Independent in an interview on Tuesday that his client was a “good Christian boy” who regularly attended church.

“I have no idea where that came from. I just know he’s not Muslim. It’s very strange,” Mr Pollard told The Independent.

According to the NYPD, Sibley, 28, and a group of friends had pulled in to the Coney Island gas station’s forecourt at about 11pm on 29 July and began “voguing” to Beyoncé’s Renaissance album.

Mr Popov and his friends were captured on surveillance coming out of the station’s convenience store and demanded the men stop dancing because it offended their faith, NYPD Assistant Chief Joseph Kenny told a press conference on Saturday.

“As the group began to yell at Mr Sibley and his friends, they began to call them derogatory names and used homophobic slurs against him,” NYPD Assistant Chief Joe Kenny said at a press conference Saturday.

“They also made anti-Black statements, all while demanding that they simply stop dancing.”

O’Shae Sibley with fellow students from the the Ailey Extension dance school in Manhattan
O’Shae Sibley with fellow students from the the Ailey Extension dance school in Manhattan (Whitney Brown / Alvin Aliey)

Court records obtained by the New York Daily News allege Mr Popov said: “Stop dancing here... we are Muslim. Get that gay s*** out of here.”

As the confrontation continued, Sibley followed Mr Popov around the back of an SUV and was allegedly stabbed once in the chest. He died in hospital a short time later.

At a court appearance on Monday, Assistant District Attorney Sarah Jafari said that Mr Popov had shaved his hair and turned off his phone in an attempt to evade capture, the Daily News reported.

He surrendered to detectives on Friday and has pleaded not guilty.

Friends and LGBT+ community members gathered at events across New York over the weekend to mark Sibley’s death
Friends and LGBT+ community members gathered at events across New York over the weekend to mark Sibley’s death (Associated Press)

Mr Pollard told The Independent that his client denied making any racist or homophobic statements.

“I have met his family, he has Black family members. I’ve met his friends, he has Black friends. He denies hate being a part of anything regarding this.”

Mr Popov’s grandmother said outside court that he acted in self-defence, while his mother read a statement expressing sympathy for the Sibley family.

“My heart goes out to the family of Mr Sibley,” she said, according to the Daily News.

She said her son was a “good boy” and regular churchgoer.

A funeral for Sibley is due to be held in his home city of Philadelphia on Tuesday.

Sibley attended the Philanco dance academy in the city before moving to New York about three years ago to further his dream of becoming a professional dancer.

Friends and LGBT+ community members gathered at events across New York over the weekend to mark Sibley’s death.  

Voguing is a form of house dancing that emerged from the ballroom scene in Harlem, and has been popularised by the LGBT+ community.

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