Did Deli Worker Who Fatally Stabbed Attacker Go Overboard?

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When a deli worker was physically assaulted, he stabbed his younger attacker, calling it self-defense, but attorneys have said he went overboard. After seeing the video, do you agree?

Jose Alba
After Austin Simon (left) began attacking Jose Alba (right), the deli worker fatally stabbed the customer in self-defense, but NYC attorneys said he went overboard. (Photo Credit: Screenshot)

Jose Alba, a 61-year-old deli worker, made international headlines in July 2022 when 35-year-old Austin Simon attacked him in a dispute over chips. Angered that Alba had taken the snack from his girlfriend’s 10-year-old daughter after her mom’s benefits card failed to work in the transaction, Simon went behind the counter of the Harlem deli and began physically attacking Alba. That’s when things took a deadly turn, and it was all captured on surveillance camera video.

“I don’t want a problem,” Alba is heard pleading in the video footage of the incident.

As seen in the footage, Simon ignored Alba’s pleas, aggressively shoving the deli worker into store shelves and grabbing him by the neck, according to The Blaze. As Simon began to walk Alba from the area behind the counter, Alba saw an opportunity and took it, grabbing a knife that he had been using to open boxes.

“He wanted me to come apologize to the girl,” Alba told a New York City police detective, the New York Daily News reported. “I took the knife we use to open boxes, and I stabbed him.”

Austin Simon (Photo Credit: Mugshot)

According to reports, Alba stabbed Simon at least five times in the neck and chest. Meanwhile, Simon’s girlfriend grabbed a knife from her purse and stabbed Alba in the arm, according to the criminal complaint. Unfortunately, Simon lost his life in what Alba claimed was an act of self-defense. However, attorneys didn’t see things the way the deli worker did — even with the video footage of the stabbing.

Instead, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office charged Jose Alba with second-degree murder in the death of Austin Simon as well as criminal possession of a weapon. Bragg’s office faced intense criticism for the decision to charge the deli worker, who was sent to the notorious Rikers Island with his bail set at $250,000.

With Democratic New York City Mayor Eric Adams defending Alba and calling him “innocent,” Alba was soon released on a reduced bail of $50,000 as he maintained that he was simply defending himself against Simon in the stabbing.

“My heart goes out for this hard-working, honest New Yorker that was doing his job in his place of business, where a person came in and went behind the counter and attacked him,” Adams said of Alba, according to the New York Post.

Eventually, in the face of continued public pressure, Bragg’s office dropped all charges against Alba, but things were far from over. Alba sued Bragg and the NYPD for civil rights violations in the fall of 2023. In response, New York City lawyers urged a federal judge to dismiss the lawsuit, Fox News reported. According to the NYC attorneys, Alba had gone overboard.

“As detailed in our motion, under the circumstances there was sufficient probable cause to arrest and prosecute Mr. Alba,” a city Law Department spokesman said at the time. “[I]t was entirely reasonable to believe that [the] plaintiff unnecessarily escalated the confrontation between himself and Mr. Simon—even if it was Mr. Simon who initiated the confrontation,” city lawyers said previously, according to the outlet.

Jose Alba has argued that there was no reason for attorneys to arrest and prosecute him because he was only acting in self-defense. However, in court papers filed in federal court, city attorneys said that “considering the events that led to [the] plaintiff stabbing Mr. Simon, that is an extreme position,” meaning that they felt the deli worker’s response to the attack was more aggressive than it needed to be.

“Mr. Simon pushed [Alba] once and grabbed him by the collar to escort him outside for the expressed purpose of having him apologize to” his girlfriend, the attorneys alleged, according to the NY Post. “While the District Attorney’s Office found it would be difficult to disprove justification beyond a reasonable doubt, it was not unreasonable to arrest plaintiff in the first place.”

Faced with the video of the incident, most social media users seem to be on Alba’s side, calling it “sickening” to see the “victim” made out to be a “criminal.” While stabbing someone over a demanded apology may seem “extreme,” the fact remains that no one knows what might have happened next. After all, the woman to whom Austin Simon was demanding Alba apologize was armed with a knife herself — one she eventually used to stab him. So, did Jose Alba go too far? One will never truly know, but at least he’s still alive — and Austin Simon would be too if he’d kept his hands to himself instead of using them to commit an act of violence.