LOWER MANHATTAN (PIX11) — Bodega owners emerged from a Tuesday morning meeting with Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg confident that the “self-defense” murder charge against worker Jose Alba will ultimately be dropped.
Fernando Mateo, the spokesperson for the United Bodegas of America, called the conversation “very productive and very good” in a press briefing after the sit-down, at which UBA was joined by the Yemeni American Merchants Association.
Though Bragg has not yet budged, Mateo said he was optimistic that after a full investigation the murder charge will be dropped against Alba, a Manhattan bodega worker who fatally stabbed an assailant in what he says was self-defense.
“We have faith that he’s going to get it right,” said Mateo of Bragg.
Mateo said the prosecutor told the delegation that his office must first conduct a thorough investigation of the July 1 incident before making any changes.
But when asked whether Bragg indicated that the murder charge could ultimately be dropped, Mateo quoted the district attorney as saying, “Absolutely.”
Alba’s deadly run-in happened at the Hamilton Heights bodega where he works. Police say Alba and a female customer got into an argument after her EBT card was declined.
The woman’s boyfriend, Austin Simon, entered the store a short time later and confronted Alba behind the counter, officials said. Surveillance video shows Simon shoving Alba into a chair, then Alba fatally stabbing Simon.
Alba was arrested and charged with murder. He was then held on $250,000 bail for nearly a week before prosecutors asked for a lower bail amount. The judge agreed and reduced the sum to $50,000 amid widespread public outcry.
Mateo said that Tuesday’s meeting also featured a general discussion on safety for bodega employees, including the idea of more workers applying for gun permits.
Citing a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down a restrictive New York State law on concealed carry of a firearm, Mateo encouraged law-abiding bodega owners to apply for gun licenses. He suggested that Bragg did not oppose the notion, but a spokesperson for the DA said in a statement issued after the press briefing that more guns, legal or illegal, were not the answer.
Bragg “expressed support for New York’s strong gun laws, and emphasized that more guns in our communities make us less safe,” the spokesperson said.
A representative of YAMA made clear during the joint press briefing that her group does not support a push for more guns in New York City bodegas.
Alba is due back in court on July 20.