The 17-year-old suspect accused of fatally stabbing gay dancer O’Shae Sibley has pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree murder as a hate crime.
Professional dancer Sibley, 28, was voguing with friends at a petrol station on Coney Island Avenue in Brooklyn, New York, when they were approached by a group of young men.
According to prosecutors, the teens shouted homophobic and racist slurs at Sibley and his friends before the suspect stabbed Sibley in the chest.
The suspect, who made his first court appearance on Friday (11 August), has been identified as Dmitriy Popov – a student in his final year at a local secondary school.
Popov was indicted by a grand jury on Thursday (10 August) and arraigned on Friday on charges of second-degree murder as a hate crime, second-degree murder, first-degree manslaughter as a hate crime, first-degree manslaughter, fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon and related counts.
Popov entered a not guilty plea on all charges.
The 17-year-old suspect faces a minimum of 20 years in jail and a maximum of 25 years to life.
Popov’s lawyer, Mark Pollard, told reporters: “Nothing about his past or his history shows that he’s the type of person to commit this crime.”
Pollard also denied that Popov had used any anti-gay or anti-Black slurs, and intimated that his client may argue that he acted in self-defence.
However, Brooklyn district attorney Eric Gonzalez emphasised the importance of prosecuting the incident as a hate crime.
At a news conference on Thursday, Gonzalez said: “We’re going to stand up for Mr Sibley, for the right he had to dance and be exuberant, the right he had not to stop dancing because it offended someone else.
“Hate crimes impact a victim, but it also impacts a community. It robs not just the family, but an entire community of their sense of safety and security.”
Gonzalez described Sibley’s death as “tragic and senseless”.
Popov’s next court date is in October.
Anyone who has witnessed or experienced a hate crime is urged to call the police on 101, Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or visit the True Vision website. In an emergency, always dial 999.