New York, NY – The Manhattan district attorney has dropped all charges against a 61-year-old bodega worker who fatally stabbed a violent parolee after the suspect came behind the counter and attacked him earlier this month.
Jose Alba, 61, was arrested for murder in the wake of the stabbing death of 35-year-old convicted felon Austin Simon.
News of the bodega worker’s arrest – which many described as a textbook case of self-defense – sparked outrage and garnered national attention.
After weeks of pressure, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office filed a motion to dismiss the murder charge on July 19, WPIX reported.
“Following an investigation, the People have determined that we cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was not justified in his use of deadly physical force,” Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Sigall wrote in the motion.
Prosecutors noted that it was not unreasonable for Alba to believe that Simon was about to use deadly physical force against him, WPIX reported.
Under New York law, a person is allowed to use deadly force if they reasonably believe doing so will prevent a burglary, according to the news outlet.
Since Simon barged behind the counter of the bodega – an area that is not open to the public – then it was reasonable for Alba to believe that Simon trespassed and intended to commit a crime, WPIX reported.
Simon’s cousin, Candra Simon, told The New York Times that her family was devastated to learn Alba won’t face a murder charge.
“We are all clearly disappointed and can’t understand how it’s okay to take an unarmed man’s life,” she said. “This decision sets a dangerous precedent.”
The horrific encounter occurred at Hamilton Heights Grocery near West 139th Steet and Broadway at approximately 11 p.m. on July 1, the New York Post reported.
Alba was working at the bodega when a woman and her 10-year-old daughter came into the store to buy snacks, according to WPIX.
The woman became upset when her electronic benefits card was denied, leading to an argument between her and Alba, according to court documents.
The woman later told investigators that Alba reached over the counter and took her daughter’s snacks away from her after the failed transaction, WPIX reported.
The angry woman left the store and went and told her boyfriend, Simon, about what had occurred, police said.
Simon went into the store and headed behind the counter to confront the bodega worker, then shoved him into shelves of merchandise, security footage showed.
Alba, who was cornered by his attacker at that point, fell backwards into a chair as the parolee crouched down over him, the video showed.
According to court documents, Simon then “attempted to steer [Alba] out of the area behind the counter,” at which point Alba grabbed a knife and stabbed his attacker multiple times in the chest and neck, WPIX reported.
Investigators said Simon’s girlfriend tried to intervene and pulled out her own knife, then stabbed Alba in his shoulder and hand three times, the New York Post reported.
Simon’s girlfriend has not been charged for stabbing Alba, but prosecutors said they are “continuing to review the evidence” in the ongoing investigation, according to the news outlet.
The bloodied, injured bodega worker was still holding the knife as he waited for police to arrive at the scene, the New York Post reported.
Simon was rushed to Harlem Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, according to WNBC.
Alba was arrested on murder charges and criminal possession of a weapon, the New York Post reported.
Although his bail was originally set at $250,000, a judge later reduced it to $50,000 amid public outcry, WPIX reported.
Alba has no prior criminal history.
Simon’s family stormed out of the courtroom after Alba’s bail reduction hearing, according to the New York Post.
The career criminal’s sister declared that her brother “was murdered in cold blood.”
“If the shoe was on the other foot, my brother wouldn’t have gotten bail or bond or nothing,” she complained.
According to court records, Simon was out on parole after serving time for assaulting a police officer when he attacked Alba, FOX News reported.
“The video in this case speaks for itself,” the Neighborhood Defender Service, which was planning to defend Alba, said in a statement to WNBC. “Mr. Alba was simply doing his job when he was aggressively cornered by a much younger and bigger man.”
Shortly after Alba’s arrest, Guardian Angels founder and former New York City mayoral candidate Curtis Sliwa said Alba “should be getting a Congressional Medal of Honor” for his actions, the New York Post reported.
“Instead, he’s locked up on Rikers and this is all [New York County District Attorney] Alvin Bragg. He turns loose real criminals and he incarcerates victims who fight back,” Sliwa said. “What kind of a message is this?”
New York City Mayor Eric Adams also defended the 61-year-old bodega worker.
“I am hoping that we take all of that into consideration, as this hard-working New Yorker was doing his job and someone aggressively went behind the counter to attack him,” Adams said during an unrelated press conference on Thursday, according to WPIX.
“I support hard-working, innocent people that are doing their job. And I saw him as a hard-working, innocent New Yorker that a person went behind the counter and attacked him,” Adams said.
“It’s time for New Yorkers and Americans to start standing up for people following the law,” the mayor added, according to WNBC. “And that’s what I’m going to do.”
Alba immigrated to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic 35 years ago, WPIX reported.
Bodega and Small Business Group President Francisco Marte told the news outlet that Alba is “distraught with everything that happened” and that he “didn’t provoke” the attack.
His son, 27-year-old Jeffrey Alba, said his father is “not used to this type of aggression” and that he “was in fear for his life” at the time of the brawl with Simon, according to the New York Post.