A New York City bodega group says the Big Apple should adopt a local version of Florida’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” law after a Manhattan store worker was charged with murder for defending himself.
United Bodegas of America — which has rallied behind Jose Alba, the 61-year-old shop employee facing a slay rap after fending off a violent ex-con — said Sunday that the measure is needed to protect others who toil behind the counter.
“Bottom line — in Florida, this is what you would consider stand your ground,” UBA spokesman Fernando Mateo said at a press conference, referring to Alba’s case.
“That’s what New York City needs,” Mateo said of the law.
The controversial Florida law came under scrutiny after wannabe cop George Zimmerman killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford in 2012, citing the statute and claiming that he feared for his life when he shot dead the unarmed teen.
Florida allows people to use deadly force if they believe they are threatened by “great bodily harm.” New York does not have a “Stand Your Ground” statute but does allow for self-defense claims when protecting one’s home.
Mateo said a more expansive statute in New York, similar to Florida’s, would have provided Alba with legal grounds for stabbing and mortally wounding 35-year-old Austin Simon when he stormed behind the counter July 1 and accosted Alba.
Alba tried to get past Simon and pulled a knife when he was unable to flee, in the caught-on-video incident.
Alba was charged with murder and held on $500,000 bail till Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg’s office negotiated a reduced amount that allowed him to secure a $5,000 bond.
The fact that Alba was even charged in the incident drew widespread outcry.
Mateo said Alba is hardly the only bodega worker put in harm’s way in the city.
“Bodega owners, clerks, their employees are going through very similar situations as what happened to Mr. Alba [in terms of threats], and it doesn’t make the news,” he said. “But you know what? [Their assailants] are not prosecuted. Given a desk appearance ticket, if that, and they continue to terrorize small businesses all over the city every single day.”
Debbie Almontaser, co-founder of the Yemeni American Merchants Association, said her group has long been fighting for safety and security measures for retail workers.
Almontaser said she has asked City Hall in the past for a $2.5 million package to install state-of-the-art cameras in all bodegas as part of an anti-violence-prevention program.
“It is important because every bodega owner and clerk across the city is living on edge because of the high rise in crime in our city,” she said. “We just lived through a pandemic where all of these clerks and bodega owners were frontline workers, essential workers.
“And today all of these lifeline businesses are feeling a sense of betrayal and a sense of not belonging to those communities because of the rise in crime,” she said.