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NYC bodega worker charged with murder after stabbing attacker in self-defense

NYPD Counter Terrorism officers do surveillance in Times Square, Manhattan, in this file photo. (Robert Sabo/New York Daily News/TNS)
July 12, 2022

A New York City bodega worker has been charged with murder for the self-defense stabbing of an ex-convict who attacked him behind the counter while he was working. The attack and subsequent stabbing were both caught on the store’s security camera.

Video of the July 1 incident shows 35-year-old Austin Simon approach Jose Alba, 61, who was working behind the counter at his Hamilton Heights bodega. Simon proceeds to aggressively shove Alba, who falls into his chair. Simon then stands over Alba, apparently yelling at both the store owner and a customer.

Eventually, Alba gets up to leave, but Simon grabs him by the shirt, at which point Alba grabs a knife and repeatedly stabs Simon.

“It was either him or the guy at the moment,” Alba’s daughter Yulissa told the New York Post. “He’s never hurt anybody. He’s never had an altercation where he had to defend himself. This is the first time for him.”

According to the Post, the altercation stemmed from Alba’s refusal to open a tab for Simon’s girlfriend, who didn’t have enough money to purchase a bag of chips at the time. During the fight between Alba and Simon, Simon’s girlfriend pulled out her own knife and stabbed Alba multiple times in the shoulder and hand.

Alba was later arrested and charged with second-degree murder, a charge that carries a minimum sentence of 15 years to life. He was initially held on $500,000 cash bail, which was ultimately reduced to a $50,000 bond.

“It’s shocking, shocking, inexplicable, that they charged him,” said Daniel Bibb, who prosecuted murder cases in Manhattan for nearly 30 years, according to Fox News. “They’re crazy. It’s clear from the video that he’s acting in self-defense. It’s clear from all the evidence that they have thus far.”

Police sources said Simon was on probation for assault at the time of the stabbing and already had 27 arrests on his record.

Jennifer Sigall, the prosecutor assigned to the case, asserted that Simon’s girlfriend was “justified in stabbing Mr. Alba, using force to stop his assault on the victim.”

Bibb rejected Sigall’s reasoning, as did criminal defense lawyer Jeffrey Lichtman, who argued the girlfriend is the “one who started all of this.”

“She put him [Alba] in a situation where he felt he needed to use deadly force,” Lichtman told Fox News Digital.

“This is insane,” Lichtman added. “Does [New York City District Attorney] Alvin Bragg want a city where you’re supposed to get pummeled half to death before you can defend yourself?  We’re frankly sick and tired of being abused by a bunch of violent criminals.”