A New York teen has been charged with hate-crime murder in Brooklyn stemming from an altercation last month, but the prosecutor’s comments about the case don’t appear to match video evidence of the deadly encounter.
From multiple viewings, it appears as though the teen had actually made an effort to walk away from a fight before he allegedly stabbed a 28-year-old man who later died.
On July 29, a man named O’Shae Sibley was reportedly dancing to music at a gas pump at a convenience store along with friends who were part of a black, LGBT dance group.
Sibley and his friends were then allegedly taunted by a group of Muslim teens who were reportedly offended by their behavior.
After a verbal altercation, Sibley was stabbed to death.
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Thursday, a 17-year-old boy was indicted in his death, which Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said was motivated by racism and homophobia, NBC News reported.
The teen’s family has said he was acting in self-defense, but Gonzalez made a statement that contradicted that.
“It’s clear to me, under the circumstances of this case, that in substantial part, this attack was caused because people were offended by Mr. Sibley and his friends dancing and celebrating,” Gonzalez stated, according to NBC.
Gonzalez also cited surveillance footage for his decision to charge the teen, whose identity has not been released.
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“What the video shows is that Mr. Sibley was rightfully in a position to speak out and protect himself and his friends from anti-gay and anti-Black slurs, and that what occurred after that was a crime,” he said.
The DA added, “Defending yourself from the anti-gay or anti-Black comments, arguing back, it’s not a cause for someone to take a weapon and do what was done in this case.”
He might have a challenging time proving his case in court, as the video appears to show that Sibley, and not the teen, was the ultimate aggressor in the deadly fight.
A clip of the video posted on X — the social media platform formerly known as Twitter — from a surveillance camera shows a man identified as Sibley approaching a group of young males in an aggressive manner.
The court case surrounding O’Shae Sibley is going to be an interesting one. Let me make it clear, Sibley did not deserve to die, but this footage could be damning to the case. The defence will use this footage and depict Sibley as the aggressor. #OshaeSibley #OsheaSibley #news pic.twitter.com/42nZSGyGE4
— That Guy Shane (@ProfanityNewz) August 5, 2023
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The late dancer confronted a person on the film believed to be the accused teen and the pair disappeared off-camera for a moment. At that moment, Sibley was allegedly stabbed. He died not long after.
But one key part of Gonzalez’s rationale for charging the teen is questionable. The prosecutor said Sibley was “rightfully in a position to speak out and protect himself and his friends from anti-gay and anti-Black slurs.”
But words in and of themselves are not necessarily threatening and do not have the ability to kill.
Sibley’s move on the teen could complicate the case, as the 28-year-old appeared much larger and more physically imposing than the person he lunged toward, according to the video.
A jury could easily find that, no matter what was said, the decision to pursue the teen made Sibley the fight’s aggressor and that the teen was in fear for his life.
New York is not a “stand your ground” state — meaning people in fear for their lives have what is called a “duty to retreat.” But the state does have self-defense laws on the books.
Find Law breaks down the state’s duty to retreat statute:
“According to the duty to retreat principles, when an individual is under immediate threat of harm, they are required to retreat from the threat as much as possible. Only then, can the individual use force for self-defense purposes; the use of deadly force is considered a last resort.”
Kevin Conway, a New York-based defense attorney, further explained the law on his website:
“New York is a state that has ‘duty to retreat’ laws. What this means is that you are expected to try and remove yourself from a dangerous situation. If you do not attempt to escape the situation and end up using deadly force, it is possible that you could be charged with a crime.
“However, if you are trapped and have no way of preventing an altercation, you may need to fight back. In these cases, you can claim self-defense because you did what you could to prevent a scenario where you had to use force.”
The video shared of the deadly fight could be interpreted to show Sibley as the aggressor and that the teen made a legally-obligated attempt to retreat.
This is, of course, not a defense of the teen, as all the facts are not known.
But after multiple viewings of the killing, Gonzalez might find himself in a difficult spot when attempting to prove to a jury that Sibley was the victim. The video appears to show him as the aggressor, once the situation had escalated beyond an exchange of words, however offensive those words might have been.
The case will ultimately be decided by a jury.
The teen’s first court appearance was scheduled for Friday.
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