After suspected arsonist charged, mason responds to hate with kindness

The man accused of a series of arsons at Masonic halls in Metro Vancouver Tuesday has been charged with arson in connection with one of the fires.

Benjamin Orion Carlson Kohlman, 42, is charged with arson at 4474 Rupert St. in East Vancouver, as well as assaulting a peace officer and failing to stop for a peace officer, according to the BC Prosecution Service.

Kohlman was scheduled to appear in Vancouver Provincial Court on the charges Wednesday morning, but the hearing was delayed to next week. He remains in custody, according to police.

In a statement, Vancouver police said they expect to recommend charges against Kohlman in connection with two suspected arsons at Masonic lodges in Lynn Valley and along Lonsdale Avenue in the coming weeks.

Dave Goddard, spokesperson for the Grand Lodge of B.C. and Yukon, which represents thousands of Freemasons, reacted to news of the charges with kindness.

“We as Freemasons don’t outwardly express hate toward anybody. This individual obviously has issues he needs to deal with,” Goddard said.

A search of social media turned up a Facebook profile where someone with the same name as the suspect appeared to take credit for the fires.

In the post, made at 8:07 a.m. Tuesday, roughly 40 minutes after the East Vancouver fire, the person wrote: "I just cleaned three satanic club houses and nobody could do anything."

The same page appears to champion conspiracy theories, including those related to 9/11 and the Flat Earth movement.

Another post on the same page from 2018 shows an image of a Masonic hall with text imposed that reads, “Masons meet secretly to plan the truth they want you to see.”

Goddard called the attacks on the halls in Vancouver and North Vancouver an “isolated incident.”

“The actions of one individual do not, by and large, mean anything in accordance with the rest of the community,” he said, and added that he doesn’t wish the suspect any ill will.

On Facebook, someone replied to the disturbing post that appeared to take credit for the arsons, writing: “You should have to face the Brethren of the lodges you burned. And they, should explain to you what you have destroyed…I hope you find peace.”

A search for Kohlman's name in online court records yields a few past charges, the most recent of which is from 2011.

Kohlman's name is associated with a North Vancouver charge of drinking alcohol in a public place from 2011, as well as a Vancouver charge of driving while prohibited from 2008 and a 1997 charge of possession of a controlled substance from Hope, B.C.

The 2011 charge was not contested, the 2008 charge ended with a guilty decision, and the resolution of the 1997 charge is unclear.

It's also unclear whether the Kohlman listed in the online records is the same man arrested for the Masonic hall arsons, though the names and birth years match.

Crews were called to the three fires between 6:45 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. Tuesday.

The North Vancouver fires were at a multi-unit building near the intersection of Lonsdale Avenue and 11th Street East that includes a Masonic hall, and a Masonic lodge in Lynn Valley, east of Mountain Highway.

No one was injured in any of the fires.

The building on Lonsdale has since been demolished.