Harvey is 67 years old. He uses a wheelchair. He’s practically deaf from years of exposure to the diesels on Maine lobster boats. He’s retired now after a life of hard work, and he takes prescription pain medications—morphine and oxycontin.
His age, frailty, dim hearing and painkiller prescriptions make Harvey a target for the local drug addicts and crooks. So it may not be surprising that his one-bedroom apartment in Rockland, Maine, has been broken into five times in the past six years.“I’m here to rob you, just like everybody else.”
The last time Harvey’s apartment was broken into—just last month—thieves stole his pain medicines and $1,000 in cash, along with the key to his safe deposit box. So last Monday, after he told a friend that he was tired of being ripped off, and hearing his friend say that he had a gun, Harvey Lembo bought a gun of his own—a 1941 Russian revolver—to protect himself in his home.
Less than 12 hours later, Lembo awoke just after midnight to see someone move from his kitchen to his living room.
“I pulled my gun out from under the pillow, got in the wheelchair, rolled out here and he was standing here at my pills,” Lembo told the Portland Press Herald. According to Lembo, the home invader told him, “I’m here to rob you, just like everybody else.”
But Lembo had the revolver he’d bought just hours before, and he ordered the crook to sit on a coffee table while Lembo telephoned the police station, which was just a couple of blocks away.
During that time, the would-be robber acted erratically, Lembo said, looking down and hiding his face with his hands. “I don’t know what he was on, but he was out of his mind,” Lembo said.
While Lembo was on the phone with the police, the home invader suddenly got up and charged toward the kitchen—and Lembo shot him in the shoulder.
“The girl on the phone heard the shot,” Lembo told the Press Herald.
When police arrived, they followed a blood trail into a wooded area bordering the apartment complex and arrested Christopher Wildhaber, 45, who had previously served prison time for felony domestic violence and drug trafficking.
After a doctor removed the bullet from Wildhaber’s shoulder, police charged him with felony burglary, three counts of refusing to submit to arrest, attempting to steal drugs and attempted theft.How does disarming a 67-year-old, partially disabled man who uses a wheelchair, has heart trouble and diabetes, and whose prescription painkillers make him a target for every drug addict in the city, possibly improve his safety?
On one hand, this story disproves two of the false promises that anti-gun groups love to parrot: That the police will always be there to protect you (they couldn’t protect Lembo, even from two blocks away); and that waiting periods don’t harm anyone. (Lembo used his gun to protect himself just 12 hours after purchasing it. What if he’d had to wait two days, or two weeks?)
On the other hand, this is a story that’s still very much unfolding.
While Wildhaber cools his heels in jail and thinks about where to get his next dose of drugs, Lembo is on edge. As of Tuesday afternoon, he still hadn’t slept since the incident on Sunday night. You can’t blame him.
Because now, after all Harvey Lembo has been through, his landlord is demanding that he give up the gun he used to protect himself on Monday. Under the “house rules” of Park Place Apartments, where Lembo lives, firearms are prohibited on the premises.
“It’s in the lease. … It’s really for the safety of all the tenants,” Russ Gagne, finance director for Stanford Management, which manages the apartments along with roughly 1,500 other subsidized apartments in Maine, told the Press-Herald.
Really? How does disarming a 67-year-old, partially disabled man who uses a wheelchair, has heart trouble and diabetes, and whose prescription painkillers make him a target for every drug addict in the city, possibly improve his safety?
Think about it.
First of all, the apartment managers don’t need to take away Lembo’s gun, since the police have already taken it as evidence, as the Press Herald and Bangor Daily News stories detail for all to see.
So now that Harvey Lembo’s story is in every newspaper from Bangor to Portland, every hard-up heroin addict around knows:
where Harvey Lembo lives;
that Harvey Lembo is feeble, hard of hearing, and has the opioid painkillers they crave; and
that Harvey Lembo is disarmed and helpless.
Do you think they’ll be back the next time they’re looking for drugs?