Murder charges dropped against bodega worker who stabbed customer in NYC

Murder charges dropped against bodega worker who stabbed customer in NYC
Jose Alba had been charged with murder of Austin Simon after fight over a bag of chips

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg announced he was dropping murder charges against New York City bodega worker Jose Alba on Tuesday.

The DA’s office filed a motion in the Manhattan Criminal Court to dismiss the case against Mr Alba, 61, after deciding they couldn’t prove that he wasn’t justified in using “deadly physical force.”

Mr Alba was charged with second-degree murder over the fatal stabbing of Austin Simon, 35, who attacked him inside the Bluemoon Convenient Store in Harlem on 1 July.

Surveillance footage showed Mr Simon confronted the bodega worker behind the counter and shoved him into shelves as a struggle broke out. Mr Alba then grabbed a knife and fatally wounded Mr Simon in the footage.

Mr Alba was sent to the notorious Rikers Island jail and held on $250,000 bond, prompting a public outcry from his family, politicians and the local community who said he had acted in self-defence.

His bail was reduced to $50,000 and he was released from jail on 7 July.

Mr Bragg came under intense pressure to drop the charges, including from Mayor Eric Adams, who said his “heart goes out” to the “hard-working, honest” store clerk.

The motion to dismiss will now go before a judge for approval.

The incident unfolded at around 11pm on 1 July when Mr Simon’s girlfriend, whose name has not been released, tried to buy a bag of chips for her daughter.

In the footage, Mr Alba is seen repeatedly trying to run her electronic benefits card through the machine, but it was declined.

When he tells her the first time that the payment was declined, she is heard asking him: “$3?… Did you put food?”

The woman insists that there is money on the card, saying: “I’m going to call it in front of you and I’m going to let you hear them.”

Mr Alba responds: “OK, mama, let me do it another time. My God.”

<p>Surveillance footage shows the fatal altercation in the convenience store</p>

Surveillance footage shows the fatal altercation in the convenience store

The transaction doesn’t work for a second time and the exchange becomes more tense, with some of the interaction inaudible as they speak over one another.

“That’s not my problem. If it’s not working, it’s not working,” he says.

The footage, which has been edited, skips forward to Mr Alba serving other customers, before the woman starts shouting from elsewhere in the store.

During that time, Mr Alba allegedly took the bag of chips from the woman’s daughter but that moment is not seen in the footage.

“You can’t touch my daughter. Don’t snatch that out of my daughter, you f***ing piece of shit,” she shouts.

She then threatens to bring her boyfriend down to “f*** you up”.

<p>Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg had come under pressure from Mayor Eric Adams to drop the charges </p>

Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg had come under pressure from Mayor Eric Adams to drop the charges

Mr Simon enters the store and is heard shouting to the bodega worker to “come out, come out”.

“Papa, I don’t want a problem, papa,” Mr Alba tells him.

Mr Simon walks past the customer area of the counter and enters the worker’s counter area, saying: “What’s up with you?”

Footage shows Mr Simon violently shoving Mr Alba against the shelves, causing him to fall back and land in a chair by the wall.

Mr Simon continues to square up in the shop worker’s face before he then grabs Mr Alba by the back of his shirt and pulls him up out of his chair out of the counter area.

At that point, the bodega worker grabs a knife from some shelves and begins to stab Mr Simon. The two men struggle with much of the chaos unfolding off camera.