March 9, 2004
William James, a 47 year old, new member of the Southside Masonic Lodge in Patchogue, N.Y. was accidentally shot and killed Monday March 8, 2004.
James was being initiated into a private "Fellow Craft Social Club" whose membership was made up of some of the lodge members. The social club meeting was being held in the Masonic Lodge building's basement. Although the club members are Masons, the club itself is not in any way a part of the Masonic Fraternity.
Albert Eid, a 76-year-old member of the social club, who was licensed by New York to carry a pistol, andhad 2 pistols in his possession, one loaded with blanks which was to be used during the imitation ceremony of the "Fellow Craft Club" and one loaded with real bullets.
The climax of the Fellow Craft Club's imitation ceremony was to be a simple prank where the new member would sit in a chair while one of the older members stood 20 feet away and fired a handgun loaded with blanks. It seems that their ceremony includes the loud noise to frighten the new member. The club members had some empty tin cans behind where the new member was sitting, facing the front of the room. One member was to fire the gun loaded with blanks while others knocked over the empty cans. Some how Eid took out the wrong gun and shot James in the head with a real bullet. William James was pronounced dead at the scene and Albert Eid was placed under arrest.
Steve Mayo, who said he is the Senior Deacon of the lodge, told reporters Tuesday that there is nothing in the Masonic Lodge that uses guns and that there is not any ceremony in Masonry where firearms are involved or even allowed within the Lodge.
Carl Fitje, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge Of New York, made it clear that guns positively do not play a role in any officially sanctioned Lodge ceremony.
FREE AND ACCEPTED MASONS
STATE OF NEW YORK
M.W.Carl J. Fitje OFF:
March 15, 2004
It is important that all New York Masons have knowledge of what the Grand Lodge is doing regarding a
tragic accident that occurred last week in which Brother William James died.
As Grand Master, I personally have spoken to the widow of our departed Brother, and communicated our
deepest condolences and sympathies to her and to her family. In Masonic tradition, a fund to assist the
widow and her family has been established, and contributions have begun to come in. Additional
contributions may be sent to the Masonic Brotherhood Foundation for the Brother William James Fund.
The death of Brother William James on March 8, 2004 has been widely reported in the public media. We
are deeply anguished and outraged because a fellow Mason has died in an incident that never should have
happened. Based on currently available information, it appears that the death occurred during a Southside
Fellowcraft Club social meeting held in the basement of a building in Patchogue, New York where South
Side Lodge No. 493 meets. Media reports reflecting a lack of information and understanding of
Freemasonry in New York may have created certain public misconceptions. The incident did not involve a
Masonic Lodge meeting, the use of a Masonic Lodge room, or any New York Masonic Ritual. The social
club involved was not itself a Grand Lodge sanctioned Masonic organization.
I have appointed a panel of respected and experienced Masons, all of whom are attorneys and some of
whom also have backgrounds in the judiciary, to review the activities and operation of social clubs that
make use of Masonic premises in the State of New York. Pending completion of that investigation, I have
suspended the Charter and members of South Side Lodge No. 493. The panel is charged to report back to
counsel for the Grand Lodge within thirty to sixty days. The panel will make recommendations intended to
assure that such a tragedy never happens again.
Grand Lodge law, previously established, clearly spells out the one and only Ritual approved in the State of
New York. No Mason can engage in or participate in any ritual that varies from the Ritual approved
under Grand Lodge law. I wish to remind all Masons that firearms do not, and never have, played any role
in any Masonic Ritual in the State of New York.
I have full confidence that you will continue your good works in your communities, and stand tall and
proud of your membership in Freemasonry.
Sincerely and fraternally,
Carl J. Fitje
The sons of the Mason killed in an initiation rite said their father died doing something he wanted.
Two of James' sons, Alex and William, are from Unadilla.
"He influenced many, many people," William James Jr. said Sunday.
James Jr. said his father wanted to join the Masons to do charity work.
"He was always helping out people," he said. "That's why he joined."
"He loved doing charity," Alex James said. "He liked to do things for other people."
James Sr. had five children, Alex James said.
"He was a good man," Alex James said. "He loved his family. He loved his wife, and he loved his kids."
James Jr. said what happened last week was an accident. "Accidents happen," he said.
"I was kind of angry at first, but I realized he was doing what he wanted," James Jr. said. "He wanted to be a Mason."
Alex James said he wasn't entirely sure what happened in the meeting or what was supposed to happen with the initiation rites.
"I guess everybody's angry," Alex James said. "There's got to be a little anger."
Alex James said he questioned Eid's actions. Eid had held a gun license for 53 years, authorities said.
"You'd think he would be smart enough not to point a gun at someone," Alex James said.
What happened on Long Island was not connected to the Masons, Otsego Lodge Secretary Peter Deysenroth said Monday.
"I feel really bad about what happened down there," he said. "But it just happened to occur in a Masonic lodge building."
The incident has resulted in unfair scrutiny for the Masonic organization, said Donald Fredenburg. He is the secretary for the Oneonta Lodge.
"It wasn't the lodge itself," Fredenburg said Monday of last week's accident. "It was some kind of club that met in the building."
Fredenburg said the Masons don't have initiation rites like those the Fellow Craft society was performing.
"I think it was ridiculous to have a firearm in there," he said. "Firearms have nothing to do with our rituals or anything."
William Armitstead, Otsego and Schoharie representative of the grandmaster for New York, said the Masons involved in the shooting incident have been suspended from their lodge. The organization, which has roots in the buildings trade, uses items such as rulers symbolically in rituals, he said.
"We're certainly not about violence and the use of firearms," said Armitstead of Sprout Brook. "Friendship and brotherly love is our credo."
WEB MASTER'S NOTE; That an accident like this happened in a strong gun controlled state like New York seems almost unbelievable to this Texas Mason where we are usually seen as having an old wild west attitude and where everyone is supposed to carry a gun.
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