RACINE — A Racine shop owner must pay $2,000 in fines for running over a suspected cigarette thief riding a bicycle away from his store in fall.
Rany N. Kong, 55, was sentenced to the fine on Friday for running over Joseph Mallon on Oct. 10. Kong hopped the curb in his Jeep in the 700 block of Wisconsin Avenue in Racine, and ran over Mallon, who was riding a bicycle. Kong suspected Mallon of stealing from Kong’s business, Odd Fellows, at 817 Main St.
“There’s a major case going on in the country now about vigilante justice and whether it is appropriate,” Racine County Circuit Judge Tim Boyle said during Friday’s sentencing hearing, referencing the George Zimmerman murder trial in Florida.
But unlike that case, with Zimmerman accused of shooting 17-year-old Trayvon Martin to death, Boyle said Mallon wasn’t injured and didn’t go to the hospital.
“I see this as a one-time, knee-jerk reaction,” Boyle said before fining Kong. “I’m sure he’s learned from this incident much more than any counseling could give him.”
According to Kong’s criminal complaint, Kong’s wife told police she suspected Mallon of trying to steal tobacco from the store and confronted him and called police. Mallon then reportedly attempted to flee on his bicycle.
As Mallon left, the complaint stated, Kong’s wife told her husband to “Stop him!”
Kong drove after Mallon, driving onto the sidewalk before hitting him, according to the complaint.
He told police he thought his wife might have been stabbed and he was trying to head Mallon off, not run him down, the complaint stated.
In October, Mallon told The Journal Times he had been buying ice cream for his wife, but his hands were full so he placed a pack of cigarettes in his pocket before going to the checkout counter. He told the newspaper that’s when the clerk accused him of stealing. He said he told the clerk he wasn’t trying to steal, grew frustrated and left the store without taking any of the items with him.
Boyle said a Wisconsin Department of Corrections probation agent evaluated Kong as a low risk to ever re-offend. “Mr. Kong’s character is exceptional. One of the best” Boyle said he has seen before his bench.
Kong was charged in November with felony counts of second-degree recklessly endangering safety, possession of a firearm by a felon and a misdemeanor charge of carrying a concealed weapon. He pleaded no contest May 7 to a downgraded charge of negligent operation of a motor vehicle, a misdemeanor, and the felon in possession of a firearm charge, which is a felony.
Since Kong is a convicted felon, Boyle reminded him he’s not allowed to have any firearms.
Kong has 60 days in which to pay the fines.