NYC bodega worker who came to aid of boss being attacked by homeless man gets bail on murder rap

A New York judge has set bail for Vernon Gowdy, a 54-year-old Bronx bodega worker who was charged with murder after stabbing a homeless man who allegedly attacked his boss on the street.

Gowdy was arrested and charged with murder, manslaughter, and the criminal possession of a weapon after the death of Kenneth Fair, the 59-year-old homeless man who was involved in the incident. It all happened on Saturday when the 78-year-old manager of the Magic 7 Smoke Shop in the Bronx was accosted by Fair, who complained that he was intentionally “bumped” as the manager carried boxes into the store.

At some point, according to the N.Y. Daily News, things got physical when Fair decided to take a swing at the old man. During the arraignment hearing for the case in the Bronx Criminal Court, prosecutors alleged that Gowdy attacked Fair from behind, putting him in a chokehold and knifing him in his upper chest. Medics arrived on the scene and rushed Fair to St. Barnabas Hospital, where he later died.

According to Gowdy’s defense attorney, Stacey Richman, her client was justified in his behavior because he was defending his boss.

“This was not murder,” she explained in the courtroom. “The deceased attacked his boss and he wanted to protect him. He thought he was going to kill his boss. His only concern was to protect his boss.”

Judge Leticia Ramirez decided to set a bail of $5,000 cash, or, failing that, a $25,000 partially secured bond and a $25,000 insurance bond. Gowdy’s attorney said his family was working on finding the money to secure his release, and claimed her client was an emotional wreck.

“He is devastated,” she said. “We believe in our system, and we believe in the justice of the system, and that this man should be exonerated.”

Neither of the men involved in the incident strike one as especially savory characters; both had lengthy rap sheets, with Fair having been arrested 20 times for a variety of crimes, including assault, robbery, and weapons charges. Gowdy has been arrested over 15 times, and did a five-year stint in the slammer during the ’90s; a former Parks Department employee, he was also busted for exposing himself to and groping a female co-worker in 2011—which isn’t exactly unusual for Parks Department types, but still merited charges of misdemeanor sex abuse and “forcible touching.”

Gowdy was also arrested in 2001 for the 1991 murder of Anna McCoy but was released when the DA failed to prosecute the case, citing a lack of evidence. Nevertheless, Richman says her client has “righted himself” in recent years, and dismissed the sexual abuse allegations as false. After being fired from the Parks Department, Richman said, Gowdy spent time volunteering at the bodega, which is just around the corner from where he lives, and eventually began working there as a regular.

It’s the second incident of violence at a bodega in New York, with another involving 61-year-old bodega worker José Alba, who was arrested for murdering his assailant in a potential robbery before charges were eventually dropped.

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