The state will not prosecute a 69-year-old Rockland man who shot an intruder in his home nearly two years ago, in a case that became a flash point for gun-rights advocates.

Harvey Lembo, a retired lobsterman who is disabled and uses a wheelchair, shot Christopher Wildhaber during a Aug. 31, 2015, burglary at Park Place apartments in Rockland. Lembo had bought the pistol less than 24 hours earlier after several break-ins at his apartment.

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

Shortly 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.

“The evidence in this case would have raised issues of self-defense and defense of premises,” District Attorney Jonathan Liberman said in a statement Wednesday. “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.

Liberman was appointed district attorney in May after Rushlau was named to a district court seat.


Attorney David Weyrens, who represented Lembo during the criminal investigation, said Wednesday that his client would be relieved by the announcement.

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

On the night of the shooting, Lembo called the public safety dispatcher to say he had a gun pointed at a man who 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.

Lembo, however, came back on the phone to the dispatcher to say he had 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 in November 2015 against the property’s owner, Park Place Associates of Rockland, and the management company, claiming they violated his Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms and violated the Maine Civil Rights Act. Justice William Stokes ruled against Lembo in that case, but gun rights advocates supporting Lembo appealed the ruling to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, pointing to Lembo’s actions as evidence that firearms are useful for lawful personal protection.

In response to some of the legal wrangling over gun and property rights that arose after the shooting, the Maine Legislature passed a bill last year that prevents apartment owners who receive government subsidies from prohibiting their tenants from 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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