An increasing number of people are pushing Manhattan’s district attorney to drop a murder charge against a 61-year-old store clerk who fatally stabbed a customer after being attacked.

Harlem bodega clerk Jose Alba was arrested in connection to the late night July 1 killing of Austin Simon, 35, who police said went behind Alba’s counter and pushed him, according to multiple reports.

A criminal complaint states Alba, who was working at the Blue Moon Convenient Store in Upper Manhattan, was also stabbed by Simon’s girlfriend during the incident, the New York Times reported.

Simon demanded an apology from Alba after an electronic card payment was declined while attempting to buy a snack for the 10-year-old daughter of Simon’s girlfriend, the outlet reported. Alba grabbed the snack out of the girl’s hands, per the outlet.

Alba tried to get past Simon and pulled a knife when he was unable to flee, video obtained by The New York Post shows.

The next day, Alba was charged with murder and was initially held on $500,000 bail until District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office negotiated a reduced amount that allowed him be freed on $5,000 bond, the New York Post reported.

‘There is a line’

Alba’s murder charge drew widespread anger from the United Bodegas of America (UBA), the city’s mayor and beyond.

“This is the same message that I’ve been stating over and over again: that hard-working New Yorkers, and Americans to be honest with you, should not be attacked in their place of work,” Mayor Eric Adams said Friday in a radio interview with WABC. “There is a line that must be drawn when you are a primary aggressor and that is what I saw on the video.”

His comments came one day after he held a news conference outside the bodega and said he was on the side of “innocent New Yorkers” who want to ride the subway and go to work without fear of attack, the outlet reported.

“Jose Alba has our full support,” UBA spokesman Fernando Mateo told reporters during a Sunday news conference. “Our city is in crisis and at this point we are just fed up with people robbing, looting, attacking, assaulting, killing our small business owners.”

Mateo said he requested a meeting with Bragg this week about the Alba case in hopes of getting him to drop the murder charge.

“We believe that Jose Alba’s charges should all be dropped,” Mateo said. “It’s the right thing to do.”

‘Stand Your Ground’

Mateo also said current New York laws involving use of deadly force during self-defense need to change. The group suggested the city adopt a version of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law to protect people working behind the counter.

Just over a decade ago, when 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was fatally shot, Florida was one of the few states with “stand your ground” laws that eased use of deadly force in the face of danger.

The death of Martin, an unarmed African-American gunned down by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman in 2012, pulled the law into the mainstream overnight.

Also during the news conference, Debbie Almontaser, co-founder of the Yemeni American Merchants Association, said her group has long fought for safety and security measures for retail workers.

Almontaser told reporters she has previously asked city hall for a $2.5 million package to install new cameras in all bodegas as part of an anti-violence-prevention program.

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The most recent attack on a worker prior to Alba, she said, involved the shooting of an 18-year-old clerk behind the counter who survived.

“We just lived through a pandemic where all of these clerks and bodega owners were frontline workers, essential workers,” Almontaser said. “We must work together to provide the safety and security for all of our bodegas, delis and corner stores that are the lifeline… The time is now.”

Natalie Neysa Alund covers trending news for USA TODAY. Reach her at nalund@usatoday.com and follow her on Twitter @nataliealund.

 

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