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Charges have been dropped against a Manhattan bodega clerk who fatally stabbed a man who allegedly attacked him at work.
Jose Alba, 61, was attacked earlier this month by 35-year-old Austin Simon while working in his Hamilton Heights bodega. During the attack, Alba grabbed a knife and stabbed Simon, who died of his injuries. Alba was arrested and charged with second-degree murder, but those charges have now been dropped, The New York Times reported.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg initially charged Alba following the incident, asking for a high bail that was eventually reduced so Alba could leave prison. Following mounting pressure, Bragg has finally dropped the charges against Alba completely.
“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 occurred 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 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 menacingly hovered over Alba, according to surveillance footage. When Alba tried to get around Simon, the younger man grabbed him by the shoulder. At that time, Alba grabs a small box cutter 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.
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.
Following comments from New York City Mayor Eric Adams and other local politicians, Bragg’s office filed a motion to dismiss the charges against Alba Tuesday morning.
Simon’s family told the district attorney’s office they were not happy about the decision, the Times reported.
“We are all clearly disappointed and can’t understand how it’s OK to take an unarmed man’s life,” said Mr. Simon’s cousin Candra Simon. “This decision sets a dangerous precedent.”
But Joan Illuzzi, a veteran Manhattan prosecutor, told the Times that the surveillance footage suggested Alba had the legal right to defend himself.
“That certainly did look like self-defense to me,” she said. “The minute you reach the back of the counter area, it becomes a burglary. And as the proprietor of the store, you’re certainly allowed to defend yourself.”