A growing chorus is calling for Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg to drop a murder charge facing a bodega employee after fatally stabbing a man who went behind his desk and pushed him.
Bodega employee Jose Alba, 61, was working at the Blue Moon convenience store in Upper Manhattan on the evening of July 1 when he got into a fatal altercation with a man named Austin Simon, according to a copy of Alba’s criminal complaint. Alba was also allegedly stabbed by Simon’s girlfriend during the incident, the complaint said.
Simon’s friend had left the shop after his payment was refused while he was trying to buy snacks for his daughter and he returned to the shop with Simon.
The New York Post obtained surveillance video of the incident and reports that the woman can be heard saying, “My F will be here soon and I’ll be picking you up,” just before Simon enters the store.
According to the complaint, the surveillance video shows Simon, holding a white towel, walking to the area behind the desk where Alba is sitting and then pushing him away.
“Mr. Simon then put a towel in his pocket and tried to lead the defendant from behind the counter, but the defendant took a kitchen knife hidden behind the table and stabbed Mr. Simon at least five times in the neck and chest.”, according to the complaint.
The complaint states that Simon’s girlfriend tried to pull Alba away from Simon by grabbing her right arm, but she continued to stab Simon. The ad said that Simon’s girlfriend, who was not named, then pulled a knife from her purse and stabbed Alba to death. According to a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office, no charges have been filed against him at this time.
Simon died that night “from stab wounds to his neck and body,” according to the complaint.
“He wanted me to come and apologize to the girl. I took a box knife and stabbed him,” Alba told investigators, according to the complaint.
Alba was arrested by police on July 2 and charged with second-degree murder. According to Emily Whitfield, a spokeswoman for her attorney, Alba has not yet filed a defense.
Alice Fontier, executive director of Harlem Neighborhood Watch, which provides legal services to the community and represents Alba, said in a statement to CNN that Alba defended herself during the incident.
“The video, in this case, speaks for itself: Mr. Alba was only doing his job because he was aggressively cornered by a much younger and taller man,” Fontier said in the statement.
Alba has been working at the bodega since immigrating to New York from the Dominican Republic in search of a better life 35 years ago, Fontier said, adding that he worked at the bodega where the incident occurred.
“He worked hard to gain US citizenship 18 years ago and has been a constant source of support for his children and grandchildren,” Fontier said.
Prosecutors decided to lower Alba’s bail after officers were detained on Riker Island for several days and told the hearing they had spoken with defense attorneys about creating a bail package that would balance the facts of the case. He was released on $50,000 bail, partly guaranteed by the owner of the bottle where Alba worked. Doug Cohen, a spokesman for the Manhattan Attorney’s Office, told CNN, “We are continuing to review the evidence and the investigation is ongoing.”
Alba is due to appear in court again on July 20.
Group urges DA to drop the murder charge
On Sunday, Fernando Mateo, on behalf of United Bodegas of America, said he and other representatives of the organization were expected to meet with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office to urge prosecutors to drop charges for Alba’s murder.
Jose Alba has our full support, Mateo said. “Our city is in crisis and at this point, we are fed up with people robbing, looting, looting, attacking, and killing our small business owners.”
New York City Mayor Eric Adams also expressed his support for Alba, saying after watching the video of the incident, he felt that Alba “is under attack and we need to take that into account when making this decision.” in a radio interview on July 8th. Adams said while the NYPD made arrests, it was ultimately up to prosecutors to decide whether to press charges.
“The prosecutor’s office has no mandate. No one can dictate how to file a case, and it’s not my job to meddle in police affairs. Since then I’ve never called the police to tell the police to arrest him, don’t arrest him… I didn’t anyway. Prosecutors are independent. My role is very clear,” Adams said.
New York self-defense law
Matteo said the current laws in New York, which cover the use of lethal force in self-defense, needed to be changed.
Criminal defense attorney Jeffrey Lichtman told CNN that under New York state law, a person can only use lethal force if they “sufficiently believe” that the person they are fighting will use lethal force.
The law also states that a person who uses lethal force in self-defense has an “obligation to withdraw from the threat,” Lichtman said.
“The reason they arrested him is that they don’t believe the accused was subjected to lethal violence,” Lichtman said.
While Lichtman understands why Alba was indicted under New York State law, he believes that no jury in his right mind would convict Alba of murder in this case.
“If I defended him I would say, ‘This is an old little man and there was a very angry, very physical man in front of him who pushed him and was obviously going to attack him. He felt like he was dying, so he grabbed whatever he could,’ Lichtman said.