Sorrento man charged after discharging firearm to spook dogwalker

Posted March 01, 2013, at 1:27 p.m.
Last modified March 01, 2013, at 3:45 p.m.

SORRENTO, Maine — A local man was arrested Thursday after he repeatedly fired a rifle into the air to scare off someone he thought was stealing from a neighboring property.

It turned out, however, that the supposed thief was a man walking his dog who had permission to be inside the adjacent home.

Lee O. Whalen, 38, of Sorrento was at his home on Eastside Road in Sorrento around 9:30 p.m. Thursday when he saw someone inside a house that is under construction across the street, according to Chief Deputy Richard Bishop of the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department. Whalen saw someone with a flashlight inside the home and, thinking it was a burglar, went outside and fired his rifle into the air at least four times to try to get the person to leave, Deputy Jacob Day wrote in an incident summary. Whalen admitted to police that he had discharged the weapon, according to Day.

The person inside the home was not a burglar, however. It was a 70-year-old man who had been out walking his dog and who had stopped to see how the construction project was coming along. The man knows the owner of the property and had permission to be there, according to Bishop. The man told police that while he was inside the house, he heard someone yell and then shine a flashlight toward the house from across the street before the shots were fired into the air, Day wrote in the summary report.

Whalen was arrested on a charge of reckless conduct with a firearm, the sheriff’s department indicated. Bishop said Friday that police have confiscated the rifle from Whalen while the charge is pending.

Subsequent attempts Friday to contact officials with the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department were unsuccessful.

According to Maine state law, reckless conduct is any activity or behavior that “recklessly creates a substantial risk of serious bodily injury to another person.”

According to officials at Hancock County Jail in Ellsworth, Whalen was released Friday on $350 unsecured bail and is expected to appear in Ellsworth District Court on the charge sometime next month.