Hamilton Heights bodega worker charged with murder after stabbing man who attacked him behind counter


NEW YORK — A Hamilton Heights bodega worker is charged with second-degree murder for allegedly stabbing a man to death after the man confronted and pushed him behind the counter. 

But many, including Mayor Eric Adams, are defending the worker’s actions as self-defense, CBS2’s Ali Bauman reported Thursday. 

The 51-year-old deli clerk is accused of stabbing and killing 37-year-old Austin Simon, but the surveillance video is not so black and white. Adams said it shows the suspect was doing his job when the victim approached him inappropriately. 

Video shows Simon push the clerk behind the bodega counter and then stand over him. Moments later, a struggle ensues. The two wrestle and the clerk stabs Simon multiple times. 

“It’s obvious this gentleman was here working, providing for his family, and someone came behind the counter and what I viewed was inappropriate,” Adams said. 

It happened late Friday night in the Blue Moon Convenience Store off West 140th Street. Police were called for an assault in progress and found Simon bleeding from two stab wounds in his chest and one in his neck. Simon later died at the hospital. 

Police arrested the clerk, 51-year-old Jose Alba, for second-degree murder.

At Alba’s arraignment, the district attorney’s office claimed it started when the victim’s girlfriend was trying to buy a snack from the deli clerk with her daughter, but her card was declined. Prosecutors said the clerk then took the snack back from the child and they left.

Minutes later, Simon walked in and “went behind the counter of the store and confronted the clerk.”

Prosecutors claim Simon pushed the clerk “and attempted to steer [the defendant] out of the area behind the counter, but [the defendant] picked up a kitchen knife that was stashed behind the counter” and stabbed the victim multiple times. 

City Councilman Robert Holden showed support for the suspect. On Twitter, he wrote, “Career criminals are let right out of jail without bail, while a store clerk who apparently acted in self defense is on Rikers Island.” 

“What I saw on the video was a New Yorker that was doing his job, and that disruption of the job happened because someone was aggressive,” Adams said. 

CBS2 has learned the district attorney’s office and defense council together requested the suspect’s bail be reduced from $250,000 to $50,000, which the judge granted. 

Prosecutors said Alba will be released after posting partial bond and surrendering his passport. He’s due back in court later in July.



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