WARWICK, RI — Warwick’s Water Division Chief Terry Dipetrillo, 51, is due in Third District Court Sept. 7 for a simple assault charge after he slapped a city worker as part of the punchline in a Knock-Knock joke, which the victim described as an “anti-semitic” slap.
The joke, told as early as 2009 by Robin Williams, begins with the person telling it pretending to be a Nazi. When the other person asks “who’s there,” the teller replies, “We will ask the questions!” The joke has been repeated on television punctuated with a physical slap, though Williams managed without the faux violence.
According to Warwick Police records, DiPetrillo also told the joke with a physical slap at the end.
According to Warwick Police records, DiPetrillo called three subordinates into his office, including the victim, who was seated at the time. DiPetrillo asked him to stand so he could tell “a Nazi joke”, and proceeded to tell the joke, ending with a slap to the left side of the victim’s face.
The victim said they replied, “I’m going to get you back for that,” as a “playful” means of defusing the awkward situation. The other two employees left the room immediately, according to the victim’s account in the report. The victim said the force of the slap could be felt on his face for about an hour, but didn’t leave any marks.
As their day went on, the victim said they were very uncomfortable about the slap, but finished their work day. The victim called out from work Aug. 9 out of fear of further assault and embarrassment, and called out of work again on Aug. 10, when they reported the slap to Warwick Police.
The victim told a police detective investigating the incident they felt the joke’s intent was anti-semitic, as they are from a Jewish family, and DePetrillo has made anti-semitic jokes in the past.
The victim also said that they know the joke as the “KGB joke” and that if it had been presented that way they would have known to avoid the slap. They also said DiPetrillo later told the same joke to another employee, who avoided the slap. They added that DiPetrillo has a history of aggressive behavior, slamming doors hard, one time dislodging a ceiling tile.
WPD Det. Ben Bratko asked DiPetrillo to visit WPD headquarters at 99 Veterans Memorial Drive to answer questions about the slap. DePetrillo arrived at 12:40 p.m. and agreed to speak with Bratko.
DiPetrillo told Bratko he had been in his office discussing the sitcom “The Office” with two employees, who also watch the show, talking about “The KGB joke,” according to the detective’s report.
He asked the victim if he had seen the episode “with the KGB joke,” and when the person said, no, he told it, answering, “We will ask the questions,” and, “simply put my had on his chin,” according to Bratko’s report. DiPetrillo denied any ill intent in telling the joke.
When asked if he knew the victim was Jewish, DiPetrillo said he knew his family was but that the victim was not practicing. DiPetrillo denied having antisemitic feelings or making antisemitic comments at work.
Accounts from one witness described the slap as a “4 out of 10” and that it left a red mark on the victim’s face, according to Bratko’s report.
Bratko arrested DiPetrillo on one count of simple assault. He was processed and scheduled for a Sept. 7 arraignment in Third Division District Court.
“Terry DiPetrillo is currently a city employee. Our office is not commenting any further at this time,” said Elizabeth Tufts, media coordinator for Mayor Frank Picozzi’s office, said Aug. 17 when his arrest was first reported. On Aug. 30, Tufts said DePetrillo is still employed by the city.
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