An NYC Bodega Worker Defended Himself During An Attack. Now He Faces Murder Charges.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg speaks at the National Action Network headquarters in Harlem Saturday, Jan. 8, 2022, in Manhattan, New York.
Barry Williams/New York Daily News/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

A bodega clerk in Manhattan was attacked by a man behind the counter, so he grabbed a knife and stabbed his attacker to death. Now the worker has been charged with murder.

Jose Alba, 61, thought his life was in danger when he stabbed 35-year-old Austin Simon, but now Alba could face life in prison.

“It was either him or the guy at the moment,” Alba’s daughter Yulissa told the New York Post last week, insisting her father was simply defending himself. “He’s never hurt anybody. He’s never had an altercation where he had to defend himself. This is the first time for him.”

The incident began on July 1, when Alba was working at his Hamilton Heights bodega. A woman entered the store and attempted to buy a bag of chips for her 10-year-old daughter, the Post reported. The woman’s EBT debit card was declined, and she told police that Alba tried to snatch the chips from her daughter. To retaliate, the unnamed woman knocked over some items on the counter and left the store to get her boyfriend, Simon.

Simon and the woman returned to the store about 10 minutes later, with Simon forcing his way behind the counter and shoving Alba down onto a chair. Simon then hovered over Alba, according to surveillance footage, acting menacingly. When Alba tried to get around Simon, the younger man grabbed him by the shoulder. At that time, Alba grabs a small knife off a shelf and stabs Simon five times, resulting in his death.

The Post reported that Alba’s defense attorney told the outlet Simon’s girlfriend allegedly stabbed the bodega clerk with a knife during the attack, but she has not been charged with any crimes. The Post reported on Friday that Alba’s stab wounds may be infected, because he only had hot water to clean them with while he was in jail last week, according to the founder of the Bodega and Small Business Group. The Post further reported that Alba had been stabbed four times during the attack in the bodega.

Controversial Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has charged Alba with second-degree murder, and was behind bars at Rikers Island until Thursday, when a judge drastically reduced his bail. Bragg had initially requested $500,000 bail for Alba, a father of three who immigrated to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic more than 30 years ago and became a U.S. citizen 14 years ago. That initial request was reduced to $250,000, which Alba’s family still couldn’t afford. On Thursday, it was reduced to $50,000, requiring a $5,000 bond, which his family paid to get him out of jail.

Bragg seems to be alone in going after Alba. New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced his support for Alba, calling him a “hard-working” clerk.

“My heart goes out for this hard-working, honest New Yorker that was doing his job in his place of business, where a person came in and went behind the counter and attacked him,” Adams said at a press conference on Thursday.

Adams did, however, say there was nothing he could do to force Bragg’s hand.

“The DA has a non-mandate, where we cannot dictate or mandate how he determines how he’s going to prosecute crimes,” Adams said. “That is up to the district attorney, and I’m not going to second-guess the district attorney for his actions.”

Other New York City politicians also called on Bragg to drop the charges against Alba, according to the Post. A bipartisan group of City Council members said Bragg’s approach to enforcing the law was “rewarding the guilty and punishing the innocent.”

“The fact that you are even prosecuting Mr. Alba reveals how your perverse sense of justice not only protects violent criminals, but actively seeks to destroy the lives of crime victims,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to Bragg.

A previous version of this article misidentified Jose Alba as 51. He is 61. 

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