Gunman was denied retirement benefits; may have been targeting HR office

The gunman is suspected to have been targeting the Yale Human Resources office, located at 221 Whitney Ave.
The gunman is suspected to have been targeting the Yale Human Resources office, located at 221 Whitney Ave. Photo by Victor Zapana.

John Petrini, a retired Yale employee who was arrested Thursday while carrying an unloaded gun and ammunition, was denied an appeal last year after the University refused to pay him retirement benefits.

Officials said they believe that Petrini, 61, who was arrested near a parking lot by the Human Resources office at 221 Whitney Ave., may have been targeting the staff inside.

“We’re just surmising that was what his issue was,” Vice President for Human Resources and Administration Michael Peel said. “I don’t know for a fact that was why he was heading to the Human Resources office.”

Petrini filed a complaint with the University in 2008 because he claimed he did not receive his deserved retirement pension. Petrini’s appeal was denied because he left the University in 2002, and did not meet the minimum age requirement of 55 to be eligible for retirement benefits, Peel said.

No further discussion between the University and Petrini has occurred since the appeal was denied, Peel said Friday.

On Thursday, Petrini walked into 155 Whitney Ave., which was up until this summer the building for almost all human resources offices. He asked an employee there to where the office had moved.

The employee told Petrini of the office’s new location, 221 Whitney Ave. After Petrini left, the employee notified the Yale Police Department via a campus blue phone, and police arrested him in a parking lot near 221 Whitney Ave. a minute later.

“[The employee] thought he looked suspicious and carried some kind of package that was suspicious,” Peel said. “It was certainly exemplary behavior that may have saved us from a tragic outcome.”

Petrini was charged with breach of peace, threatening, carrying a dangerous weapon, carrying a weapon in a motor vehicle and driving with a suspended license, Yale police said.

The Yale community was notified of the incident in a 1:33 p.m. e-mail message from Yale Police Chief James Perrotti. University President Richard Levin said a text message alert was deemed unnecessary because the suspect was apprehended within a minute.

“I think this was a very serious situation, and we are deeply indebted to the good citizen who picked up the blue phone and reported suspicious behavior, and deeply indebted to the [members of the] police department who were there within one minute of the call,” Levin said Thursday. “There were two squad cars very close by; really, this is a day of heroic deeds.”

University officials said the incident was not related to the disappearance of Annie Le GRD ’13 or this week’s visit to campus by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

An arraignment hearing for Petrini originally scheduled for today was postponed to Oct. 1.


  • numismatic

    Maybe someone needs to over look the retirement plan sounds like Yale has a big variety of problems. This is what Obama is trying to fix but he is not going to fix this all by himself. Its about team work we all have to be running the same direction and nothing more. I am not saying this man was right but he did not have time to wait for approval of leadership which is nothing but some stuck up man who does not care about the small people. Maybe he might be someone to really look into as to what elese he might have done before at Yale if he makes unwise decisions such as this one.

  • JRE88

    What exactly does Obama have to do with a disgruntled retiree? And what does it matter what he did before he worked at Yale? He retired in 2002, but feel free to check his permanent record.

  • Anonymous

    Unless he was fired or strongly encouraged to leave so that Yale could get rid of him before he qualified for a pension (which doesn’t seem to be the case), there is no way I can feel sorry for this guy. He left before the **VERY** generous retirement age of 55 and he doesn’t qualify for benefits. End of Story. Even if he had been cheated, nothing justifies his attempt to murder those he felt cheated him.

  • humanist

    numismatic – So if he wasn’t 55 at retirement which is the rule and has always been the rule, we should bend the rule for one guy?

    And what does Obama have to do with this?

  • Sane 1

    This guy is a nutbag. He most likely left on his own accord and is looking to justify his pitiful existence. If he worked his ass off like most other people, then it would be a non-issue. But in this sue-happy world, people go to the extreme. I’m not quite sure what he figured with bringing in a gun would do, but this whackjob should seek some some serious help.

  • Anon.

    A very scary moment. Thank God for the Good Samaritan that called it in and for the security guards and cops that responded within a minute. I hope I would have made that call if I were in their position. I hope someone locks him away for a very long time. I am afraid to think what would have happened if he had made it into the right building. He is obviously crazy and not ready to give up. A crazy man plus a gun is very serious and very scary.

  • The Lorax

    Between this and Le situation, could we please have complete lockdown of all doors? We need the security. Arguments about having the buildings open during the day have always revolved around concern about putting too great a burden on our absent-minded professors or interfering with students’ access to faculty offices.I assume if they are smart enough to work here or go to school here, they’ll probably learn pretty quickly. It will require a change in behavior: everyone would have to become a doorman to some degree–by letting in people who call for access. We’d have to post the phone numbers of the building occupants in the entry ways; we’d all have ask to see the ID of anyone who wants to enter the building when we exit and HR and other departments with non-Yale foot traffic would have to change their physical set-up or procedures to contain strangers. When all is said and done, doesn’t the inconvenience outweigh the risk?

    I recognize that the Le situation may likely be caused by someone with a active Yale ID, as could any employee grudge situation, but let’s take some overarching steps to increase security by taking advantage of the existing equipment. We can keep the doors locked 24/7, why don’t we?

    What is the acceptable tolerance of thefts and murders before we make the trade-off?