Masonic leader suspends lodge where member died in shooting
By Frank Eltman
Associated Press Writer
March 14, 2004, 11:45 AM EST
FARMINGDALE, N.Y. -- Six days after a man was fatally shot during a
ceremony at a Long Island Masonic lodge, the organization's state leader
said Sunday a panel of lawyers will investigate social clubs that
operate in lodges like the one where the shooting took place.
The 170 members of South Side Lodge 493 in Patchogue _ the site of
the shooting _ also have been suspended pending the outcome of the
probe, Carl Fitje, state grand master of the Free and Accepted Masons
told 750 members and their families at a breakfast in Great Neck on
"We are deeply anguished and outraged because a fellow Mason has died
in an incident that never should have happened," Fitje said, reading
from a letter that will be sent to the state's 67,000 members.
William James, 47, of Medford, N.Y., was fatally shot participating
in an initiation ceremony into a social club called Fellow Craft in the
basement of the Patchogue lodge last Monday night.
Police say Albert Eid, a 76-year-old retiree and longtime member of
the club, mistakenly pulled a loaded .32-caliber handgun from his left
pants pocket instead of a .22-caliber pistol with blanks that was in his
Police have called the shooting "completely accidental," but charged
Eid with second-degree manslaughter. He is free on $2,500 bail.
Detectives say James was seated in a chair and a small platform with
cans on top was placed near his head. Eid was standing approximately 20
feet away holding a gun. A third member out of James' view held a stick,
and when the gun was fired the man with the stick was supposed to knock
the cans off the platform to make the inductee think that real bullets
Eid, who was said by police to be "quite stunned and ... distraught"
after the shooting, has not said publicly why he brought a loaded weapon
to the ceremony.
Since the shooting, the Masons have taken pains to say that the
social club initiation was not sanctioned or part of any official
Masonic rite. Part of the confusion is that the social club used the
name Fellow Craft, which also is the second of three levels of entry
into the Masons organization: apprentice, fellow craft and master
In his letter, Fitje said, "No Mason can engage in or participate in
any ritual that varies from the ritual approved under Grand Lodge
law. ... firearms do not, and never have, played any role in any
Masonic ritual in the state of New York."
Robert Leonard, a spokesman for the Masons, noted that each of the
state's approximately 660 lodges runs independently and is owned
He said the in-house investigation by six attorneys _ all of whom are
Masons _ will try to determine the scope of activities of social clubs
that make use of Masonic facilities. Leonard conceded that social clubs
are prevalent, but could not precisely say how many were operating
The members of the Patchogue lodge will not be permitted to
participate in meetings or any other sanctioned Masonic activities
during the probe, which is expected to take 30-60 days.
There was no telephone listing for the Patchogue lodge.
Fitje also announced he has personally contacted James's widow and
said a fund would be established on behalf of his family.
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