The Randolph police chief is facing charges of domestic assault alleging he pushed a female relative to the ground and into a refrigerator.
Chief Daniel Brunelle was arrested in Berlin on Tuesday evening, according to Washington County State’s Attorney Scott Williams.
The chief is accused of pushing the woman to the ground during a confrontation in Berlin earlier in the evening.
The second charge came after the woman told police that days earlier Brunelle had shoved her into a refrigerator, causing her some pain, according to Williams.
At an arraignment Wednesday in criminal court in Barre, Brunelle was charged with two misdemeanor counts of domestic assault. He pleaded not guilty, according to Williams, and was released on conditions.
On Wednesday afternoon, Brunelle was placed on paid administrative leave after meeting with Town Manager Melvyn Adams, according to Selectboard Chair Trini Brassard, who said Brunelle turned in his gun and badge.
Williams said he requested that the judge impose a condition of release preventing Brunelle from possessing a firearm, which the judge declined to do.
Brunelle, 49, started as chief in Randolph in June after serving 19 years on the force in South Burlington, where he won an award for helping domestic violence victims.
The Vermont Center for Crime Victim Services gave Brunelle Ally Award for dedication and long-term commitment to preventing domestic violence and making a difference for victims of crime. Brunelle also has served as a member of the Chittenden County Domestic and Sexual Violence Task Force.
The Ally Award is given to a volunteer, professional or program that, outside of the course of regular duties, has advocated for victims and policies to help them.
Adams was “out of cellphone range” on Wednesday afternoon, according to his assistant.
Brassard said she found out about the charges Wednesday and that “this caught us totally by surprise.”
She said the board would evaluate what steps to take after the next court hearing on Aug. 18.
“I still stand by our decision to hire him as chief, and I hope that when this plays out and the court makes their decision that if it’s not a valid charge that the press will report that,” Brassard said. “These charges if false can be damaging to someone’s career.”
“I don’t know him personally, but I haven’t seen anything in the interactions I’ve had with him, or in the background checks or from fellow officers he worked with for years, we didn’t turn up anything in the hiring process, so this caught us totally by surprise,” Brassard said.
Brassard said the chief gave up his position until the case is settled “because he didn’t want to be a distraction for the rest of the force.”
She added: “We just have to wait and see what happens at this point.”
Attempts to reach Brunelle by email and phone were unsuccessful. His last address appears to be in central Vermont. On the town’s website, Brunelle said the Randolph force would “nurture public trust by holding ourselves to the highest standard of performance and ethics.”
Brunelle is a 1989 graduate of the University of Vermont.