NEW YORK (PIX11) — Community leaders and small business advocates gathered on Sunday in the Bronx to rally behind a Manhattan bodega worker accused of murder.

The United Bodegas of America said Jose Alba acted in self-defense and is calling on Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg to drop the murder charge against him.

“We believe Jose Alba’s charges should all be dropped. Murder charges and any charges he’s being charged with because it’s the right thing to do,” said Fernando Mateo with the United Bodegas of America.  

“Jose alba has our full support,” Mateo added. “The city of New York needs more people like Jose Alba. 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.”

The incident happened on July 1 at a bodega in Hamilton Heights. Police said Alba was working when a woman tried to pay for her food, but her card was declined. She allegedly argued with Alba before she went home to get her boyfriend, 37-year-old Austin Simon, law enforcement sources told PIX11.

Surveillance video then shows Simon confronting 61-year-old Alba behind the counter.  Alba then allegedly pulled out a knife, and Simon was fatally stabbed.  

(Provided to PIX11 News by Blue Moon Convenience Store)

Alba was jailed for nearly a week but was freed Thursday after his bail was reduced.

The Yemeni American Merchants Association represents hundreds of bodega employees.  The group said workers like Alba are often in danger in the workplace and should be able to defend themselves.

“It is absolutely horrific what happened,” said Dr. Debbie Almontaser with the Merchants Association. “We saw the footage and the footage doesn’t lie and we are asking the DA Alvin Bragg to please take into consideration this footage and make sure he provides Mr. Alba the justice he deserves.”

Mayor Adams has said Alba should not be charged. 

Alba is due back in court on July 20. 

In the meantime, these groups said more resources are needed to fund community policing programs as well as for cameras in and around bodegas.  They say they could help keep workers safe.  

“It is imperative that we work collectively with the mayor and with all elected officials to provide them with the support, the safety, and the security so they can continue being those front-line workers who saved us during the pandemic,” said Dr. Almontaser. 

Community groups said they will meet with Bragg on Tuesday to discuss the charges.  

Press Secretary Doug Cohen with the district attorney’s office says the office is continuing to review the evidence and the investigation is ongoing.