Back Bay Trader’s Joe’s worker claims self-defense in closing-time stabbing

An employee of a Back Bay supermarket acted in self-defense when he stabbed a customer Thursday night after the customer forced his way into the Trader Joe’s store at closing time and then raised his hands in a menacing manner toward the worker, the employee’s attorney said today.

Michael L. Guess pleaded not guilty in Boston Municipal Court to a charge of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and was ordered held on $250,000 cash bail after a Suffolk prosecutor said the 30-year-old male victim is on a ventilator because of the seriousness of the stab wound he suffered.


In court, Guess’s attorney, Arnold Cohen, summarized his client’s self-defense claim. Cohen said the 49-year-old Guess was assigned by the manager of the Boylston Street store to stand by the front door at the 10 p.m. closing time and keep any new customers from entering.

Guess was at the door when the victim, whose name has not been released, approached him and demanded to enter, the attorney said. Guess told the 30-year-old man to stay outside, but he forced his way past Guess, walked into the store and was then sent back out by the manager. The man was drunk, Cohen said.

Guess remained at the door, and as the victim walked back out the door, Guess told the man, “Have a nice night,’’ Cohen said. He said the victim responded with a expletive-laced tirade directed at Trader Joe’s and at Guess, Cohen said. During the verbal assault, Cohen said the man turned toward Guess, raised his hands in what Cohen described as a threatening manner, and started heading towards Guess.

At that point, Cohen said, Guess stabbed the victim with a knife.

“Mr. Guess acted accordingly in the use of reasonable force with a younger … belligerent male going at him,’’ Cohen said in court.


According to Boston police and Suffolk Assistant District Attorney Edward Curley, police recovered two knives outside the entryway of the store, one of which was stained with blood. Curley said in court that when police arrived at the scene, Guess confessed to stabbing the victim with a black folding knife.

Guess stabbed the victim in the abdomen and told police he had seen the man inside the store prior to Thursday night but did not know his name, Curley said.

Curley did not respond in court to Cohen’s self-defense claim.

The district attorney’s office said police found Guess sweeping up inside the market after the incident. “I gave him a poke,’’ Guess told police, the office said in a statement.

The victim was described in general terms as a military veteran, but details of his service were not disclosed in court.

According to Curley, Guess has a criminal history dating back to the 1990s and was charged in Brockton District Court with assault with a dangerous weapon in 2005, a charge that Guess will now have to face following his arrest. Guess also faces shoplifting charges in Boston and Woburn district courts.

Judge Sally Kelly set a further hearing for Feb. 26.