A city man stabbed during a confrontation at a card game late Tuesday died early Wednesday from his injuries, and the 25-year-old city man charged in the slaying claims he acted in self-defense.
Donald Tyree Nix, 26, of 1922 Falls St., was stabbed several times in the chest at about 11:30 p.m. Tuesday, after a fight broke out in a third-floor apartment at 1310 Ashland Ave., said city police Capt. William M. Thomson, chief of detectives.
The suspect, Wilbert Hayes III, of Pierce Avenue, said in court papers he was defending himself -- that Nix pulled out a pocket knife and he was able to grab it away from him.
Several witnesses corroborated his story.
Hayes told detectives he and Nix have been friends for 10 years and "never fought the entire time."
"I was shocked when he pulled a weapon on me. I knew he carried a knife, and when he went to his pocket I knew what he was getting," Hayes told detectives. "I knew I had to get it away from him or I was done."
Police arrived at the scene Tuesday night to find Nix in the stairwell of the Ashland Avenue apartment house, with a friend holding a shirt to his chest to try staunch the bleeding, Thomson said.
Nix was taken to Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center and later transferred to Erie County Medical Center, Buffalo, where he died at about 2 a.m. Wednesday. Four hours later, Hayes turned himself in at Police Headquarters.
"The fight escalated pretty quick," Thomson said. "Everyone in apartment knew both of them, so this isn't a whodunit."
Hayes was arraigned Wednesday morning on charges of second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter. He is being held in Niagara County Jail without bail and is scheduled to reappear in City Court on Friday.
Both Hayes and Nix have criminal records, police said, and both have been gunshot victims in the streets of Niagara Falls in unrelated incidents.
Hayes said in court papers that he stopped at the card game in the residence of Andre Porter to hang out with his younger brother, Lazarus, and he had a disagreement with Nix but didn't remember what it was about. Hayes had not been playing cards with Nix and others.
The dispute got louder as they fought over who could win a fight between him and Nix, Hayes said. He told detectives that Nix stood up and sucker-punched him in the mouth, then the two moved from the kitchen into the living room.
"I saw him pull out his knife and said, 'What are you going to do, cut me?' And he said, 'Yea, I'm going to cut you,' " Hayes told detectives.
Hayes said Nix "smashed him in the face" with the butt-end of the knife as they wrestled. He told police he somehow managed to grab the knife and that the fight stopped about 10 seconds later. Then, he said, he could see that Nix had been stabbed.
Hayes said he and several others fled after that. He went to his grandmother's house and told her what happened, then planned to turn himself in to police the next morning. He said he found out before he turned himself in about 6:30 a.m. Wednesday that Nix had died.
Porter told police he had known Hayes and Nix for 10 years. He said Hayes was just watching while he and about five others played cards, including Nix. He said the argument was about something that had happened in the past.
He also told police he saw Nix pull the knife and then somehow Hayes got it and "poked" Nix two or three times in the chest.
"[I've] seen the knife before," said Porter. "Tyree [Nix] has it on him all the time and pulled it on me before. He described it as a red-handled, fold-out knife, approximately seven inches long.
The homicide is the first of the year in Niagara Falls, as well as the first in Niagara County.