PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Friends and family members gathered Tuesday in Philadelphia to remember O’Shae Sibley, who was fatally stabbed after he confronted teenagers who taunted his group of gay, Black friends as they danced at a New York City gas station.
“O’Shae had the power to touch everyone’s heart, whoever met him,” said Otis Pena, a close friend of Sibley's who was at the gas station and bared his grief hours later in a Facebook video. “O’Shae was a beacon of light for a lot of us in our community.”
About 200 people attended Sibley's funeral at a historic opera house in the city where the 28-year-old Sibley grew up and performed before moving to New York to pursue his career as a dancer. He had performed with the dance company Philadanco and used dance to celebrate his LGBTQ+ identity.
Brooklyn prosecutors have charged a 17-year-old high school student with hate-motivated murder in the death of Sibley, who was Black.
The stabbing happened after a group of teenagers got into an argument with Sibley and his friends as they danced shirtless to a Beyoncé song while they gassed up their car.
Police said the teens used homophobic slurs and made anti-Black statements.
Security camera video showed the argument had broken up and both groups had walked away when Sibley and his friends abruptly returned and crossed a parking lot to confront the white 17-year-old, who was recording with his phone.
In the video, Sibley could be seen following the teen and then lunging at him. The stabbing happened out of a clear view of the cameras.
The Rev. Bernard Brown of the United Church of the First Born told mourners at the Met Philadelphia that Sibley “lived his life doing what he so passionately loved — and senselessly lost his life doing what he loved.”
Karen Pendergrass, a teacher at the Philadelphia School of Dance Arts remembered Sibley as a shy 14-year-old who kept popping his head in the door of her classroom.
“You’ve got one more time to come past my door and then you’re coming through my door,” she said she had told him. “He took that class, he got a scholarship and from there he just flourished.”
A dance scholarship will be set up in Sibley's name, Pendergrass said.
Sibley’s death prompted an outpouring of tributes from politicians and some celebrities, including Beyoncé and the filmmaker Spike Lee.
At least one witness told reporters some of the teens who clashed with Sibley and his friends had objected to the dancers' behavior because they were Muslim. The mother and lawyer of the 17-year-old boy charged in the stabbing, though, said he is actually a Christian who wears a cross and goes to church.
The teen's grandmother told the Daily News he was just defending himself.