I wanted to follow up on this week’s bizarre story about three people, including an aide to California’s attorney-general, who were arrested for running a fake Masonic police department, whose membership claimed a bloodline connection to the Knights Templar. A spokesperson for Freemasonry in California denied to the media that any of those arrested were connected to Masonry in California. “We are so not affiliated with them that I wouldn’t even know where to point you,” California Masonic spokesperson Emily Limón told the Sacramento Bee. However, contrary to these claims, one of those arrested, David Henry, appears to have been a Mason himself, if media reports are true.
According to LA Weekly, Henry, 46, was a member of a Masonic lodge in South Los Angeles, and he wanted to form his own lodge. Grandmaster Van Hibler, 75, told LA Weekly that he had informed Henry, whom he considered to be like a son to him, that a new lodge had to be established by following protocol. When Henry’s efforts to form his own lodge failed, Henry then told Hibler that he would start a police force to protect grandmasters across southern California, somewhat like the way state police protect state governors. Although Hibler declined Henry’s offer of protection, he told Hibler that he could not stop him from creating his own police force, which was to be called the Masonic Fraternal Police Department. Somewhere along the line, Henry and his two fellow suspects developed unusual ideas about the history of their new police force, which was never recognized by the Masons.
In a statement released to the media, the sheriff’s department of Santa Clarita, Calif.—where the MFPD had its headquarters—explained some of their claims:
The group claimed that they were descendants of the “Knights Templar” and that their police agency had been in existence for 3000 years. Additionally, they claimed that MFPD had sovereign jurisdiction in 33 states and across the border in Mexico.
Similar claims appears on the MFPD’s ungrammatical website.
According to Hibler, the three suspects were all related. He said Henry is married to the second suspect, Tonette Hayes, 59, while the third suspect, California Department of Justice employee Brandon Kiel, 31, is the husband of Hayes’s daughter. Both Henry and Hayes had now-suspended private investigator licenses, and both had trained as security guards and had gun licenses in that capacity, accounting for some of the police paraphernalia found at their Santa Clarita headquarters.
LA Weekly reports that California has a number of predominately African American Masonic lodges, and that is an interesting story all its own—but sadly one that is a bit beyond my scope.
These additional details add context to the story and suggest that it is a bit less bizarre than it initially seemed, in that the people involved are apparently related and Henry had been a longtime Mason who seemed to genuinely believe he was doing something good for the Masons. The strangest part is how the three succumbed to fringe history ideas about the Masons and the Templars to the point that they seemed to believe that fringe history could justify their actions and grant them police powers, if we take them at their word.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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