After intense backlash from local bodega workers and city tabloids, Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg on Tuesday dropped all charges against bodega clerk Jose Alba, who was allegedly acting in self-defense when he fatally stabbed a man who was attacking him.
The liberal DA’s decision comes after weeks of criticism of Bragg’s decision to send the 61-year-old to Riker’s Island and charge him with second-degree murder in the death of 35-year-old Austin Simon. Bragg first requested Alba’s bail be set at $500,000 before it was lowered to $50,000 in response to criticism from the community. He was later released on a $5,000 bail bond.
Video obtained by the New York Post seems to show Simon advancing on Alba at the bodega where Alba works and violently shoving him against a wall after his girlfriend’s credit card was rejected while trying to buy a bag of chips. Alba could be heard in the video trying to diffuse the situation as Simon walked behind the counter, saying, “Papa, I don’t want a problem, papa.”
While Alba initially tried to walk away from Simon after being shoved, video shows, a struggle between the two men ensued and Alba stabbed Simon repeatedly. The video seems to show Simon’s girlfriend pulling a knife from her purse and attempting to grab Alba’s arm as he stabbed her boyfriend. She then stabbed Alba.
Bragg’s office said Tuesday that “a homicide case against Alba could not be proven at trial beyond a reasonable doubt” after further investigation, according to the New York Times.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams previously defended Alba during a news conference saying his “heart goes out” to the “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 also told WABC Radio, “I believe there’s far too many cases where we’re spending time defending people who commit crimes. I’m going to defend New Yorkers who are doing the right things.”
Fransisco Marte, the president of the Bodega and Small Business Group, said Alba “was a victim in this incident and should never have been charged.” Marte put up his house to cover Alba’s bail.
“[Alba] became a citizen of this country, and in all those years was never involved in a crime,” Marte said. Alba is a Dominican immigrant.
Simon’s cousin, Candra Simon, spoke out against the decision to drop the charges on Tuesday saying, “We are all clearly disappointed and can’t understand how it’s OK to take an unarmed man’s life,” according to the New York Times.
“This decision sets a dangerous precedent,” the cousin added.
Reporting from National Review.