New York police investigate dancer’s stabbing death as possible hate crime

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The stabbing death of a professional dancer at a New York City gas station has drawn the attention of police investigators specializing in hate crimes.

O’Shae Sibley, who was gay, was attacked outside a gas station in the Midwood section of Brooklyn on Saturday night. The 28-year-old and his friends were filling up their car while clad in swimsuits, playing music and dancing when they were confronted by a group of men, Gothamist reported.

Gothamist’s report cited an eyewitness account from Summy Ullah, an employee of the gasoline station’s adjoining Bolla Market. As Ullah told it, Sibley and his friends were accused of being offensively flamboyant by the group who approached.

Ullah claimed the group mentioned defending their religious beliefs during the confrontation, according to Gothamist.

After a verbal exchange, captured by a surveillance camera at the gasoline station, Sibley was stabbed. He was pronounced dead at a local hospital.

“They murdered him because he’s gay, because he stood up for his friends,” Otis Pena, one of Sibley’s friends, said in a Facebook video posted after the killing.

“His name was O’Shae and you all killed him. You all murdered him right in front of me.”

Gothamist, CBS News, the New York Times and others reported that the New York police department’s hate crimes taskforce was investigating the slaying.

In a statement to the Guardian, a police spokesperson said Sibley’s death “is being investigated as a possible biased incident”. No arrests have been made, the spokesperson added.

The FBI reported in March that hate crimes had increased by 12% in 2021 compared with the previous year. About 64% of victims were targeted due to their race, ethnicity or ancestry. Another 16% were targeted over their sexual orientation, and 14% of cases involved religious bias, according to the FBI report.

Between June 2022 and April 2023, the Anti-Defamation League and Glaad, an LGBTQ+ advocacy group, documented at least 356 “extremist and non-extremist incidents motivated by anti-LGBTQ+ hate”, according to a report issued in June.

Drag events and performers were the most frequent target of LGBTQ+ hate incidents, accounting for 138 of the total. Many Republicans have sought to demonize drag shows, and events have frequently been targeted by rightwing groups.

The New York state senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal, who is gay, said he was “heartbroken and enraged to learn about O’Shae Sibley’s death”.

“Despite homophobes’ best efforts, gay joy is not crime,” Hoylman-Sigal said in a tweet. “Hate-fueled attacks are.”

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