Murder Charges Dropped Against Harlem Fish Market Worker

A brawl erupted at the Fish Express Fish Market in Harlem, New York, on Tuesday evening after an individual reportedly attempted to steal shrimp from the business. The incident ended with the death of 25-year-old Malik Burrell and the injury of his brother Robert Burrell, leading to a murder charge that was later dropped.

Initially, Junior Aquino Hernandez, a fishmonger working at the market, was arrested and charged with murder, assault, and weapons possession after allegedly intervening with a knife to defend a colleague the Burrell brothers had attacked. However, on Thursday, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office dropped the murder charge against Hernandez and freed him on supervised release as he awaits trial on the reduced charges.

The incident began when Robert Burrell ordered shrimp at the market, then attempted to leave without paying after arguing with a worker. When the employee followed him outside, Burrell punched him in the face before storming off, dropping the shrimp during the fight. Four minutes later, he returned with his brother and went straight to the employee-only area of the store, behind the counter.

Malik Burrell repeatedly punched the worker who had tussled with his older brother earlier. Hernandez tried to separate the two, but Robert Burrell threw a chair at a third employee holding a knife. When Hernandez could not break up the fight, he went to get a kitchen knife and stabbed Malik twice in the torso.

As the struggle continued towards the store’s exit, Robert pulled his injured brother out. Hernandez stabbed Robert in the hand and abdomen three times, causing a collapsed lung that required emergency surgery.

Assistant Manhattan District Attorney Mireille Dee noted that the investigation would determine whether the initial stabbing behind the counter was justified. Still, charges would be filed concerning the incident at the door for the stabbing of Robert Burrell.

Meanwhile, Burrell was charged with robbery, burglary and assault. He was reportedly awaiting arraignment on Thursday night.

Manuel Perez, the manager of Fish Express Fish Market, called it unfair that someone would be charged with serious crimes for defending themselves and their workplace against robbery.

Hernandez’s wife believes he was defending himself and in a situation where it was his or the other person’s life. She added that it could have easily gone the other way, and they could have killed him.

The incident has drawn comparisons to the July 1 stabbing death of Austin Simon by 61-year-old bodega worker Jose Alba, who claimed he acted in self-defense when a customer’s boyfriend came behind the counter and shoved him. While Alba was initially charged with murder, the case was eventually dropped. He reportedly expects to file a multi-million dollar lawsuit for wrongful prosecution.