| |

Montgomery man sentenced to four years in prison for anti-Asian bias crime

A Montgomery man will serve time in state prison for chasing a woman and two small children with an imitation rifle while trying to steal the woman’s cell phone.

Michael Kibalo, 29, has been sentenced by Somerset County Superior Court Judge Angela Borkowski to four years in prison, 85 percent of which must be served without the possibility of parole, law enforcement officials said. 

On Sept. 24, Kibalo pleaded guilty to charges of second-degree robbery and third-degree bias intimidation. He also pleaded guilty to two counts of third-degree aggravated assault for assaulting his parents with a shovel weeks after the robbery incident. He has been sentenced to four years in prison on those charges, to be served concurrently with the other sentence.

Montgomery Township police officers arrested Kibalo on March 10 after he chased the woman and two small children in the area of Belle Glades Lane and Sleepy Hollow Lane. The incident began when Kibalo, who had his head and face covered with a hooded sweatshirt and mask, pointed an imitation rifle at the woman and ordered her to give him her cell phone. When the woman refused to surrender the phone and ran, Kibalo caught her and tried to wrestle the phone from her hands. Kibalo fell, but the victims continued to run from him. A contractor working nearby heard the woman screaming and ran to help, but before he reached her, a Montgomery Township police officer arrived. Kibalo stopped chasing the woman and faced the officer. He was still holding the imitation firearm, which had no orange tip or other markings to show it was not real. A neighbor who heard the commotion opened her home to provide a safe haven for the victims. Meanwhile, Officer Connor Chapkowski ordered Kibalo to put down the weapon multiple times before he complied. Kibalo was then placed under arrest with assistance from another township officer.

Officials said an investigation revealed that the crime against the woman and her children was a bias crime. The woman was targeted because she was Asian.

“This man terrorized his victims and created a very dangerous situation,” Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said in a written statement.  “I commend the Montgomery Township police officers for their handling of this incident.  We’re committed to fully investigating and prosecuting bias crimes in New Jersey. As members of law enforcement and as a society, we need to push back against intolerance and hatred.”

The Attorney General’s Office offers a reward of up to $25,000 for tips from the public leading to a bias crime conviction. To report a bias crime, visit https://nj.gov/oag/bias or call 800-277-BIAS.