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Manhattan DA's office drops charges against Jose Alba, bodega worker accused of murder

Charges dropped against Hamilton Heights bodega clerk accused of murder
Charges dropped against Hamilton Heights bodega clerk accused of murder 02:32

NEW YORK -- The altercation and the death inside a Hamilton Heights bodega on July 1 made headlines far and wide. A clerk stabbed a patron to death and was jailed on Rikers Island and then set free.

On Tuesday, the charges have been dropped.

READ MOREHamilton Heights bodega clerk arrested for murder tells CBS2 he acted in self-defense

Video clearly shows 61-year-old Jose Alba stab 35-year-old Austin Simon inside the Blue Moon Convenience Store, but Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said his office could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the incident was a homicide and that Alba may have been justified in his use of deadly physical force.

Bodega workers and more had come out in support of Alba, asking Bragg to drop charges.

"We are so happy," said Francisco Marte of the Bodega & Small Business Association. "When Alvin Bragg called me to tell me about the case, I felt like he gave us the respect we deserve."

"This was clearly not a murder case in every sense of the word," David Schwartz, the director of the New York Association of Grocery Stores, told CBS2's Ali Bauman.

Some lawmakers said the case should never have gotten to this point.

"Jose Alba should never have been charged and sent to Rikers Island in the first place. This was a clear cut case of an innocent man acting in self-defense. Thankfully, security cameras captured the entire incident on video or Alba could very well still be facing the murder charge today. That video evidence is all of the more reason why Alvin Bragg was so wrong to put Alba through the ringer as long as he did, charging him with murder, sending him to Rikers Island with an open stab wound, and refusing to charge the person who stabbed Alba," said Rep. Lee Zeldin, the Republican candidate for governor.

"While today's news that charges will be dropped against Mr. Alba is a big victory for justice, what our city desperately needs is DA Bragg to charge criminals appropriately to prevent residents from having to resort to self-defense," said Rep. Nicole Malliotakis.

READ MOREBodega owners, elected officials rally on Staten Island in defense of Jose Alba, bodega clerk who fatally stabbed attacker

Mayor Eric Adams spoke about the DA's decision on Tuesday afternoon.

"I think in this case we had an innocent, hard-working New Yorker that was doing his job and someone was extremely aggressive towards him. And I believe after the DA's review, the DA, in my opinion, made the right decision," Adams said.

Legal expert Dmitriy Shakhnevich told Bauman he believes the lack of a weapon on Simon is the reason why it took the DA so long to make his decision.

"There was a weapon only one way and whenever there's a weapon only one way that raises the self-defense negation flag, as we like to say, and that's what happened here," Shakhnevich said.

He also said now that the charges have been dropped, it's possible Alba could file a civil rights lawsuit, but he believes, in this case, it would be a hard suit to win.

CBS2's Dave Carlin spoke to longtime residents of Hamilton Heights, where the Blue Moon is located.

"He didn't plan it out. He didn't get up and say, 'I'm gonna murder someone today.' That's not what his goal was," Yvonne Sonera said.

"As a shop owner, I think they have a right to defend themselves. But to murder? It's a very difficult situation, to be honest," Michelle Delgado said.

"This is a situation, for example, is no-win because ... the victim's family is not going to be happy about that," a man named Reggie said.

They aren't.

"My cousin was a father. My cousin had people who loved him. He had a family," Candra Simon said.

New information in the motion to dismiss says the argument started when Simon's girlfriend couldn't pay for a snack her daughter wanted. Alba allegedly grabbed the snack from the child's hand. Simon later returned, demanding an apology, which sparked the confrontation.

READ MOREExclusive: Hamilton Heights bodega clerk arrested for murder says he acted in self-defense during last week's incident

Alba, who has said very little about the case, recently showed CBS2 his injuries, but not his face. His daughter translated a comment from him.

"He was put in a position where he couldn't tell how it was gonna end. He was just defending his life," Alba's daughter said.

"He took a man's life who did not have a weapon drawn. I don't understand how people don't understand how we feel, how they can't understand that we feel that's not right," Candra Simon said. "And he's going to walk for that and go back into the community like nothing happened. I think that sets a very dangerous precedent."

READ MOREUnited Bodegas of America joins calls to drop charges against Jose Alba, bodega worker accused of murder

Hamilton Heights residents said they are concerned about the current state of things in the city.

"I think the whole city has gone mad and I think everybody is at their wit's end. Nobody has any coping mechanism anymore and everybody's off the deep end," Delgado said.

"He took it to a level I'm sure he regrets now and I'm sure he's going to live with it, which is not going to be good, so that's enough punishment," Sonera added.

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