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Friday, February 23, 2024

Intruder Fatally Shot After Breaking Into a St. Louis Masonic Hall

by Christopher Hodapp

An intruder was shot and killed in the pre-dawn hours of Wednesday morning after breaking into a St. Louis-area Masonic lodge building. Police pronounced the suspect dead at the scene. The lodge's resident called police as soon as the suspect was shot, and is cooperating with investigators. 

As of Friday evening, the dead man, believed to be in his mid-40s, still has not been publicly identified. 

According to local NBC affiliate KSDK-5the suspect broke into the hall of Tuscan Lodge No. 360  at 5015 Westminster Place – in the city's Central West End – shortly before 4 a.m., setting off the building's alarm system. The lodge is unusual in that it has a private apartment inside on the third floor, originally built for the hall's caretaker. Awakened by the alarm, the apartment's resident armed himself and began conducting a search of the building. He confronted the intruder on the second floor and subsequently shot him.

According to the news account, the apartment's resident is a Mason and a member of the lodge. Police are not releasing his name publicly, and for a very good reason. Over the last two years, Masonic halls all over the world have seen increases in break-ins, vandalism, robberies, arson fires and other attacks, and anti-Masonic zealots have attacked individual brethren in increasing numbers. A Texas Mason was shot and killed last year by an anti-Mason who posted a video of himself shooting the Brother in the lodge parking lot. So, it's not a bit surprising that the lodge's resident would arm himself before searching the building.

According to its website, about 160 Masons belong to Tuscan Lodge. Past members include four Missouri governors, two St. Louis mayors, and three U.S. senators. Former President Harry S. Truman was a frequent visitor.

The Homicide Division of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police are conducting the ongoing investigation. 
Police Sergeant Charles Wall was quoted in the press as saying, "No matter what the facts in this investigation will be presented to the Circuit Attorney, whether or not they ultimately decide to issue any charges, that's in their purview." The Channel 5 news report interviewed a local law professor on camera, talking about Missouri's "Castle Doctrine" laws:
"The Castle Doctrine protects homeowners from intruders if someone breaks into (their) home and (they) have a reasonable fear that (they) are going to get hurt, (they) can use lethal force. Whether the burglar is armed or not it doesn't matter. If someone's in (their) house and it's dark, (they) are going to be scared."

He said Missouri has one of the most expansive Castle Doctrines in the country.

"In some states, you have to have a fear of being seriously injured or killed -- not in Missouri -- just fear of any injury and that seems to be the case here," Walker said. 
Police have not said whether the burglar was armed or not. But any time a person shoots and kills an intruder inside their home, there's always a chance that an overzealous prosecutor will attempt to turn the victim of the break-in into the bad guy for defending his 'castle' and his own life. 

Consequently, ALL Freemasons are strongly discouraged by the Grand Master of Missouri from discussing or commenting about the case on social media. The Brother in question doesn't need a bunch of keyboard warriors mouthing off about the incident online while police are still investigating. 

However, anyone with real firsthand information about the case is urged to call the Homicide Division directly at 314-444-5371. Anyone with a tip who wants to remain anonymous and is interested in a reward can contact CrimeStoppers at 866-371-TIPS (8477).

(UPDATE 2/24/2024: Police have subsequently identified the deceased intruder as Geanard Howard, 48, of St. Louis. See HERE. Photo from his Facebook page.)

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