Newspaper Worker Arrested after Pepper Spray, Pistol Found in Office

Oct. 24--Police arrested a Modesto Bee employee Sunday night who allegedly came to work drunk with a loaded handgun, then released pepper spray in his office, authorities said.

Benjamin Yonan, 54, of Modesto was booked into Stani-slaus County Jail on suspicion of possession of a concealed firearm and carrying a loaded firearm in a public place, both misdemeanors, and possession of more than 2.5 ounces of pepper spray, a felony, police said.

Yonan is a computer technician in The Bee's Information Services Department.

According to police:

A security guard went to Yonan's office before 9 p.m. after a co-worker said Yonan appeared drunk.

The guard smelled a strong odor outside the office. Inside, he found a canister of pepper spray on Yonan's desk.

The guard removed Yonan from the office and called police. A co-worker then looked in Yonan's backpack and saw a gun.

Police identified it as a 9 mm semiautomatic handgun with a fully loaded 10-round magazine. A second loaded magazine was in the backpack.

Sgt. Craig Gundlach said there was no evidence indicating that Yonan was going to assault anyone.

"We don't know why Yonan sprayed the pepper spray in the office, why he brought it to work or why he brought a pistol to work," Gundlach said. "That is under investigation."

Gundlach said that Yonan said he "had some frustrations" with certain co-workers at The Bee.

Yonan "made no threats (or) violent actions, except spraying pepper spray in his office," Gundlach said.

Modesto Bee President and Publisher Margaret Randazzo said Monday that she could not comment on the arrest because it is a personnel matter.

"It's an internal employee matter, and we're going to be investigating it," she said.

Randazzo added, "We have always maintained a safe workplace for our employees and that continues to be our full commitment."

Copyright (c) 2006, The Modesto Bee, Calif. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Business News.