DATE: May 19, 2009, 12:15 a.m.
LOCATION: 286 West 147th St., Manhattan
Back on May 19, a lovers quarrel turned violent in an apartment at 286 West 147th St. in Harlem, and Tyrone Bigby, 36, allegedly stabbed Joseph Coleman, 52, to death.
Yesterday, we got a call from Stacey Coates, a neighbor and friend of theirs who made the 911 call that brought the police to the apartment moments after the stabbing.
Coates, 43, a former case manager for a social services agency, contacted the Voice because she was upset at a claim in one of the tabloids that Bigby was “smiling” in the aftermath of the killing.
“It was not a sinister attack,” she says. “That was so far from the truth. They were fighting. I wished that he had listened to me and left the apartment, but he wouldn’t. I don’t know why he was so compelled to stay.”
Coates says that the two men were already struggling over the murder weapon, a small kitchen knife, when she arrived at their door…
The apartment was in shambles: dishes broken on the floor, an upturned chair in the living room among strewn compact discs. Both men were already bleeding; Bigby from a gash on his head from being hit by a stove burner.
“The older man wanted the younger one to leave, and he didn’t want to leave,” she says. “They had been partners for 12 years.”
Coates says she turned around to call 911, and when she looked back, Coleman was on the floor, bleeding from a terrible wound at the base of his throat.
Coates ran outside and called 911. The police arrived to find Bigby still standing, stunned, in the apartment, and a large pool of blood forming around Coleman’s body and flowing into the hallway.
“He [Bigby] didn’t know what to do,” she says. “He was scared. He asked me what to do.”
The police questioned Bigby and Coates in the hallway, and eventually handcuffed Bigby and took him to the precinct stationhouse.
“He wasn’t smiling,” she says. “He was in shock. As he left, he mouthed to me that he was so sorry.”
The couple had a cocker spaniel, which police took to an animal care agency. The funeral was yesterday.
“It’s extremely sad,” Coates says. “I was fond of both of them. It
was traumatic for me. I’m not sleeping. I’m having nightmares. I never
witnessed anything like it before.”