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Owner robbed in NYC bodega where Jose Alba killed attacker

The Upper Manhattan bodega where a cashier killed an assailant in self-defense was again the scene of an attack on a worker — and the suspect was set free after his arrest, The Post has learned.

The kid-gloves treatment of accused robber Ariel Hernandez, 19, is a far cry from the way authorities dealt with 61-year-old store worker Jose Alba after the employee grabbed a knife to protect himself from a raging ex-con earlier this year.

Alba, 61, was initially charged with murder and spent nearly a week on Rikers Island even though surveillance video showed him being attacked by Austin Simon, 35, before the July 1 stabbing.

The latest incident at the Blue Moon convenience store in Hamilton Heights unfolded around 6:30 p.m. Aug. 19 as owner Osamah Aldhabyani, 33, was working a 12-hour shift.

“The guy came in the store and started scaring the customers,” Aldhabyani said of Hernandez.

“He grabbed two Monsters [energy drinks] and left. I thought that was the end of it, but he came back three minutes later.”

Bluemoon convenience store worker Osamah Aldhabyani
Osamah Aldhabyani was attacked during his shift at Blue Moon convenience store.
William C. Lopez/NYPOST

Aldhabyani said the man “told me [he] has a real problem with me,” then “came behind the counter and asked me for money and Black & Milds,” a brand of tipped cigarillos popular with weed smokers for use in making blunts, according to online postings.

“I told him to leave me alone because I didn’t want any problems,” Aldhabyani said.

“He started tossing things behind the counter and … after I pushed him outside, we started fighting. I put him on the floor and held him there until the police came.”

A criminal complaint filed against Hernandez alleges that he “knocked [Aldhabyani] to the ground and wrapped his arm around [Aldhabyani’s] neck, causing substantial pain to [his] head and back.”

At the suspect’s arraignment the next day, Hernandez pleaded not guilty to second-degree robbery, third-degree burglary and petit larceny.

He was released without bail by Manhattan Criminal Court Judge Melissa Lewis Andre — even though the robbery count is a “qualifying offense” for bail under the state’s controversial 2019 bail reform law.

Bragg’s office wouldn’t say if prosecutors sought to have bail set.

Meanwhile, Aldhabyani’s employee, Alba faced the possibility of life in prison in his case until Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg — who’s faced fierce criticism for his lenient treatment of crooks — finally dropped the charges after a series of front-page Post reports that outraged politicians and everyday New Yorkers.

Aldhabyani, a Qatari immigrant who bought the store eight months ago, said he fears becoming the next law-abiding victim to be targeted by Manhattan’s progressive DA.

Aldhabyani said Bragg’s office unexpectedly sent him a subpoena for surveillance video of the incident involving Hernandez. In Alba’s case, authorities visited the store to retrieve similar recordings the morning after Simon’s slaying.

The Aug. 30 subpoena demanded that the bodega turn over “any and all surveillance video” from “between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.” on the date Aldhabyani was robbed and warned that failure to “produce said items” could result in a conviction for criminal contempt and “a fine of $1,000 and imprisonment for one year.”

But Aldhabyani said he can’t comply because the bodega’s camera system only stores recordings for 14 days and all he has are the clips he shot on his cellphone, the longest of which is three minutes, seven seconds.

“I’m scared that the DA is retaliating because of Jose Alba and that what happened with Jose will happen to me — because I will be arrested like Jose,” Aldhabyani said.

“I’m scared of being arrested because they are targeting me because they told us to not share the Jose Alba video with anybody and we shared it.”

Aldhabyani said he showed up at the DA’s office Sept. 6, as directed in the subpoena, and met with an official who told him to expect another letter that has yet to arrive.

“I’m waiting for this letter, and I want to see what’s going on. I’m nervous and scared,” he said.

In a prepared statement, Bragg spokesman Doug Cohen said, “All New Yorkers deserve to feel safe in their workplaces.

Aldhabyani said he is fearful of getting arrested after what has happened at the store.
William C. Lopez/NYPOST

“No one at Blue Moon is being investigated — obtaining video evidence through a subpoena is a routine part of investigating a case.

“We take the defendant’s alleged conduct seriously and are actively investigating it,” Cohen added.

The Legal Aid Society, which is representing Hernandez, declined to comment.

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