ROCKLAND, Maine — The 67-year-old man who in August shot an alleged intruder inside his apartment has filed a lawsuit against the property owner and management company for demanding that he give up the gun he used for protection.
Harvey Lembo claims in the suit filed Monday in Knox County Unified Court that both the property’s owner, Park Place Associates of Rockland, and the management company, Stanford Management LLC of Portland, have violated his U.S. and state constitutional rights to own a gun.
Lembo is being represented in the lawsuit by attorneys Patrick Strawbridge of Boston and David Thompson of Washington, D.C.
Strawbridge said Monday that Lembo has received the support of numerous groups including the National Rifle Association in his fight to be able to have a gun in his residence.
“Threatening to evict Mr. Lembo for defending himself clearly violates his constitutional rights,” said NRA Maine State Liaison John Hohenwarter. “Self-defense is a fundamental, God-given right that belongs to every law-abiding American — no matter their tax bracket, zip code or street address. Furthermore, Article 1 Section 16 of the Maine Constitution echoes this sentiment by stating: ‘Every citizen has a right to keep and bear arms and this right shall never be questioned.’”
The lawsuit argues that Lembo, who is confined to a motorized wheelchair, acquired a revolver to protect himself after he had been the victim of four prior burglaries in his apartment on Park Street in Rockland.
Less than 24 hours after he used the 7 mm Russian-made revolver to shoot a person who has been accused of trying to steal Lembo’s prescription painkillers, Lembo received a letter from Stanford Management saying he could not have a gun in the apartment or he would be evicted.
Russ Gagne, director of finance for Stanford Management, said Monday he was not aware of the lawsuit and thus had no comment at this time.
In September, Gagne said that the firearm prohibition was part of the house rules for living in the apartment complex and that tenants sign a lease requiring they adhere to those rules.
“This is to ensure the safety of all tenants,” Gagne said a day after the Aug. 31 shooting.
At the time, police seized the gun from Lembo as evidence. It could not be determined Monday whether Lembo had rearmed himself.
Gagne said previously that owners and managers of private rental units can prohibit firearms. He said most multifamily housing developments have such prohibitions. Stanford manages about 1,500 units in Maine, he said.
Strawbridge, Lembo’s attorney, said his client wants to continue to live in the apartment that he has resided in since 2009.
The lawsuit seeks to bar the property owner and management company from evicting Lembo. It also wants the gun ban overturned and seeks unspecified monetary damages for the actions of the companies.
Lembo said in September that he bought the gun about 12 hours before he was the victim of another burglary.
He used the weapon to shoot 45-year-old Christopher Wildhaber of Rockland, who Lembo said had broken into his home to steal his medications. Wildhaber was shot in the shoulder and fled the residence before being apprehended by Rockland police in nearby woods.
Wildhaber initially was taken to Pen Bay Medical Center in Rockport but was transferred to Maine Medical Center in Portland, where he was treated for his wound before being taken to jail.
Wildhaber has been charged with burglary, theft of medication, attempted theft and three counts of refusing to submit to arrest. He has been held at the Knox County Jail in Rockland since his arrest.
Wildhaber is next scheduled to appear in court on Feb. 18, where a trial date may be set.