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|Inductee shot dead at L.I. Masonic lodge rite
Secretive ceremony was designed to create 'a state of anxiety'
The associated Press | 9th March 2004
PATCHOGUE — A secretive initiation ceremony in the basement of a Long Island Masonic lodge went "tragically wrong" when a member mistakenly pulled out a loaded weapon and fatally shot an inductee in the face, police said Tuesday.
William James, 47, of Medford, N.Y., was pronounced dead at the scene of Monday night’s shooting inside the Southside Masonic Lodge, said Suffolk County Detective Lt. Jack Fitzpatrick.
James was participating in an induction around 8:40 p.m. at the Southside Masonic Lodge when Albert Eid, 76, of Patchogue, pulled out a gun from his pants pocket with real bullets instead of blanks and shot him, Fitzpatrick said. Eid had had a permit since 1951 for the .32-caliber handgun used in the shooting, but it was not clear why he brought it to the ceremony.
A second weapon, a .22 caliber pistol with blanks, was in Eid’s other pocket. The detective said both weapons are approximately the same size.
Fitzpatrick told reporters at a news conference that police believe the shooting “was completely accidental.”
Police believe the Masons sat James in a chair and placed cans on a small platform around his head.
Eid was standing approximately 20 feet away holding a gun, Fitzpatrick said. 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 were fired.
Fitzpatrick said the ceremony was designed to create “a state of anxiety” for the inductees. Police also found a guillotine, rat traps, and a wooden board that Fitzpatrick surmised was used in some type of “walking the plank” routine in the basement of the one-story building.
Eid pleaded innocent to a second-degree manslaughter charge at his arraignment before Suffolk County District Court Judge Paul Hensley in Central Islip. He was released on $2,500 bail and ordered to return to court on April 27.
Eid’s lawyer did not immediately return calls for comment.
Fitzpatrick described Eid as “quite stunned and ... distraught.”
The shooting shone a spotlight on the Masons, a highly secretive society that traces its roots to medieval craft associations.
While officials of the lodge denied that guns play a role in ceremonies, Fitzpatrick said members told police the rite involving a gun with blanks goes back at least 70 years.
Carl Fitje, grand master of the New York State Freemasons, released a statement early Tuesday in which he said guns do not play a role in any officially sanctioned lodge ceremonies.
“We are fully cooperating with all of the appropriate law enforcement officials,” the statement said.
A member of the Long Island lodge, who was told of the shooting by reporters Tuesday morning outside the brick building in downtown Patchogue, also denied that guns were used in Masonic rituals.
“We don’t use pistols,” said Steve Mayo, a senior deacon of the lodge who said he was not present at Monday’s ceremony. “Nobody ever took out a gun with me. I don’t know why he did that.”
Mayo said James had been a member of the lodge for a few months and Eid had been a member for many years.
Monday’s ceremony was an initiation into the Fellow Craft, which is the second degree within the Masonic system. Masonic officials described Fellow Craft as a social organization within the club, involving active members who participate in fund-raising and other charitable activities.
James worked as a map drafter and had worked for the Town of Brookhaven since 1988, said town spokeswoman Inez Birbiglia. “He was a nice guy,” she said. “Everybody around here knew him and I can’t say I’ve ever heard a bad word about him.”
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