Manhattan DA drops murder charge in bodega stabbing

Northeast

(NewsNation) — The Manhattan district attorney’s office filed a motion to dismiss murder charges against the New York City bodega clerk shown on video stabbing a man in what some say was self-defense.

Jose Alba, 61, was charged with murder in connection with the death of 35-year-old Austin Simon.

The altercation started after a woman and her 10-year-old daughter went into a bodega to buy some snacks around 11 p.m. on July 1. The woman’s electronic benefits card was denied, sparking an argument between her and Alba, who was working as the bodega’s cashier at the time.

The woman told authorities Alba grabbed the snacks from the girl, so she left and told her boyfriend, Simon. Simon came into the bodega, confronted Alba, pushed him and tried to steer him from behind the counter, police said. Alba then picked up a knife, and stabbed Simon in the neck and chest, according to authorities, until the woman pulled her own knife.

Alba was arrested on charges of second-degree murder, but on Tuesday, the Manhattan district attorney’s office announced that those charges would be dismissed.

“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 of Counsel Jennifer Sigall wrote in a motion to dismiss that sheds light on what happened between the two men.

According to the motion, Simon entered a small, employee-only area behind the bodega’s counter, shoved Alba against a wall, grabbed him by the collar to lift him out of a chair and forced him out of the employees-only area, saying he wanted the older man to apologize.

As he was being held by the collar and pushed out, Alba grabbed a knife from a shelf and repeatedly stabbed Simon. While Simon did not have a weapon in his hand, the motion states, he did have a boxcutter clipped inside his front shorts pocket, although he never displayed it.

The motion confirms Alba stabbed Simon in the heart, his lung and his jugular vein. Simon was declared dead when he arrived at the hospital. A medical examiner found that Simon had a total of six sharp force injures: three stab wounds and three incise wounds, meaning they are longer than they are deep.

As Alba stabbed Simon, his girlfriend grabbed his arm with the knife and tried to pull it away. When this did not stop Alba, Simon’s girlfriend reached into her purse, pulled out a knife and started stabbing the bodega clerk, causing an “avulsion of the skin,” per Alba’s medical discharge papers. The woman backed up when Alba pointed his knife at her, then Alba backed up.

The district attorney’s motion to dismiss notes that Alba’s charges were dropped based on sources of information including files, records, video and audio, interviews with police and civilian witnesses and interviews with the clerk. This includes portions of video that were not publicly available before, although one surveillance video did have a gap in audio and visual footage during a crucial period,” the motion said.

After the stabbing, support for Alba grew, including from New York City Mayor Eric Adams, who said his “heart went out” to “a hard-working, innocent New Yorker.” Groups such as United Bodegas of America and Neighborhood Defender Service also argued that Alba acted in self-defense.

“Mr. Alba was simply doing his job when he was aggressively cornered by a much younger and bigger man,” Neighborhood Defender Service wrote in a statement.

But the New York Times reported that Simon’s family spoke with the district attorney’s office Tuesday morning, and criticized the decision to drop Alba’s murder charge.

“We are all clearly disappointed and can’t understand how it’s OK to take an unarmed man’s life,” Simon’s cousin Candra Simon said in the Times. “This decision sets a dangerous precedent.”

This story is developing and will be updated.

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