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State won't prosecute wheelchair-bound Rockland man who shot intruder

By Stephen Betts | Jul 05, 2017
Harvey Lembo will not be charged with shooting an intruder in his home.

Rockland — The state will not prosecute a 69-year-old wheelchair-bound Rockland man who shot an intruder in his home nearly two years ago.

"The Knox County Office of the District Attorney has reviewed this matter, and we are declining prosecution. This is not a case where we could prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt," District Attorney Jonathan Liberman said.

Harvey Lembo shot Christopher Wildhaber during the Aug. 31, 2015, burglary at Park Place apartments in Rockland.

Wildhaber was wounded and treated at the hospital but released that evening. Wildhaber was sentenced in July 2016 to 10 years in prison with all but four years suspended for the nighttime break-in.

After the shooting, then District Attorney Geoffrey Rushlau said he had not ruled out charging Lembo in connection with the shooting, under a state law that outlines when it is permissible to use deadly force in defense of premises.

Liberman was appointed district attorney in May after Rushlau was named to a district court seat. Liberman issued a statement Wednesday, July 5.

"The evidence in this case would have raised issues of self defense and defense of premises.  Mr. Lembo is disabled and uses a wheelchair. His home had been burglarized on several occasions, and he had purchased the firearm in question in response to these burglaries. This shooting occurred when Mr. Lembo interrupted a burglary of his home. The standard of proof in criminal cases is proof beyond a reasonable doubt, and I do not believe that we could meet this burden given these factors," Liberman said.

Attorney David Weyrens of Portland, who represented Lembo during the criminal investigation, said Wednesday that Lembo will be relieved by the announcement.

"Mr. Lembo never felt he did anything wrong defending himself. He is grateful that District Attorney Libmernan came to the same conclusion," Weyrens said.

Lembo called the public safety dispatch to say he had a gun pointed at a man who he found had broken into his home. He told the dispatcher he instructed the man to sit still or he would shoot him. The dispatcher told Lembo not to do that.

The dispatcher then loses contact with Lembo for about a minute before Lembo came back on the phone to say he shot the man and that there was blood everywhere in the apartment.

After the shooting, Lembo received a notification from Stanford Management LLC of Portland, which manages the apartment complex, saying he was in violation of house rules by having a gun on the premises and that an eviction process would be started if he did not comply.

Lembo filed a lawsuit against the property’s owner, Park Place Associates of Rockland, and the management company, claiming they have violated his U.S. and state constitutional rights to own a gun. Justice William Stokes ruled against Lembo in that case, but gun rights advocates supporting Lembo appealed the ruling to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

In response to some of the legal wrangling over gun and property rights that arose after the shooting, the Maine Legislature passed legislation last year that prevents apartment owners who receive government subsidies from prohibiting their tenants owning guns. The law exempts owner-occupied buildings of four or fewer units.

The appeal on behalf of Lembo was subsequently dropped in August 2016.

Lembo remained in the apartment complex.

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Comments (1)
Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Jul 05, 2017 15:14

I am  glad the Lembo won in this case. He had every right to defend himself in his own property-home. But for the grace of God! We all might find ourselves in such a horrendous situation.

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