[Square & Compasses]

Man Killed During Masonic Initiation

Tuesday March 9, 2004

By FRANK ELTMAN, Associated Press Writer

PATCHOGUE, N.Y. - A man was shot in the face and killed during a Masonic initiation ceremony by a fellow member who mistakenly pulled out a real pistol instead of a blank gun, police said Tuesday.

The 76-year-old man who fired the shot was charged with manslaughter.

William James, 47, was killed Monday night at the Southside Masonic Lodge.

"We believe it was completely accidental," said Suffolk County Detective Lt. Jack Fitzpatrick. The man under arrest, Albert Eid, was "stunned and distraught" at James' death, he said.

The initiation rite was aimed at scaring the new member.

According to Fitzgerald, the Masons sat James in a chair and placed cans on a platform around his head. Eid, standing about 20 feet away, was supposed to fire a blank gun, and a man holding a stick was supposed to knock the cans over to make James think they had been hit by bullets.

Eid had two guns =F3 a .22-caliber pistol loaded with blanks and a .38-caliber with real bullets =F3 and apparently pulled the wrong one out of his pocket, the lieutenant said. He said the weapons are about the same size.

Eid had a permit for the gun. Police said it was not clear why he took it to the ceremony. He pleaded innocent and bail was set at $2,500.

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