A teenager pleaded not guilty Friday to nine counts in the stabbing death of a dancer who was vogueing at a Brooklyn gas station, according to court records and his attorney.
Dmitriy Popov, 17, is being charged as an adult in the killing of O’Shae Sibley, his attorney and prosecutors said. A grand jury indicted Popov Thursday for murder in the second degree as a hate crime, manslaughter in the first degree as a hate crime, weapons possession and other charges.
Defense attorney Mark Henry Pollard said his client is not guilty, is remorseful and might claim self-defense. His next court date is October 10.
The family of the suspect – his mother and grandmother – were in court and declined comment to CNN. The teen gave them a thumbs up as he exited the courtroom.
Pollard said there is nothing in his client’s past that shows he is the type of person to commit such a crime.
“I strongly suspect that we will be going self-defense, and that he had a reasonable grounds to reasonably… believe that he had to defend himself in this situation,” Pollard said.
Death was ‘tragic and senseless,’ DA says
Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez on Thursday called Sibley’s death “tragic and senseless.”
“O’Shae and his friends were allegedly targeted, because they were dancing, they were being themselves, dancing joyfully to Beyoncé music at a Brooklyn gas station, harming no one, and refusing to stop even when confronted with anti-Black and homophobic slurs demanding that they stop dancing,” Gonzalez said.
Sibley, 28, was approached on July 29 by a group of men who allegedly began shouting homophobic slurs. An altercation broke out and Sibley was stabbed in the chest. He was transported to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead.
“The entire community has been victimized by this senseless victimization of Mr. Sibley. This crime, while clearly impacting his family and loved ones, have impacted the entirety of Brooklyn, and the entirety of the city and I dare say the entire nation,” Gonzalez said.
“The allegations made against this 17-year-old are of tremendous import to this city and to this country and I’m assuring the community that we are taking this case very seriously and we’re going to make sure that justice prevails in this case.”
Many witnesses have come forward, according to the DA. “We believe that there were two groups confronting each other and the group that Mr. Sibley was in was the people who were being assailed with anti-gay and anti-Black statements,” Gonzalez said.
The DA refused to answer if any more people would be charged over the incident.
“O’Shae came to New York to follow his dream, like many New Yorkers,” Gonzalez said. “He came here, he was a choreographer, he was a dancer, he was here to shine a light on himself and really shine a light on this community and New York City and his light was shut off, he was killed, for senseless reasons that I think have to be addressed.”
‘Obviously he’s sorrowful,’ defense attorney says
Regarding his client’s mental state, Pollard said, “Obviously he’s sorrowful, he’s sad, he’s afraid as he should be at 17 years old, but he… has faith and he prays and he has great family support and he’s hanging in there.”
“He regrets what happened, certainly does, but that doesn’t mean he’s guilty of a crime – those are two different things,” Pollard said.
Popov lives with his mother, has maintained two gig jobs and is going to be a high school senior, according to Pollard.
Pollard said Popov also has many Black friends and a Black sister-in-law.
“I just don’t see an anti-Black thing going on here,” Pollard said.
Pollard said, to his understanding, his client did not utter any slurs.
Popov is being held at a juvenile facility in Brooklyn, his attorney said.
Before the brief arraignment wrapped up Friday, Judge Craig Walker said to Popov that while he’s in the facility, “I’m expecting you to take advantage of whatever programs they have there for you.”
The judge added, “Most importantly stay out of trouble. It’s surprisingly easy to get in trouble at the facility and you don’t need anything else going on.”