PETALUMA — A former police officer in Northern California faces trial in November on misdemeanor charges of assaulting a woman during a Black Lives Matter protest last summer.
The case against Lance Novello, a 19-year veteran of the Petaluma Police Department, marks the city’s first public reckoning since the killing of George Floyd led to calls for greater law enforcement oversight, the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat reported, Thursday.
Sonoma County prosecutors alleged Novello assaulted Elizabeth Cole, a Black student at Santa Rosa Junior College, during a July 20, 2020, protest. He was charged with battery and assault by a police officer and faces up to a year in jail, a $10,000 fine and the prospect of losing the right to bear arms if convicted.
Novello, who was named the city’s Officer of the Year in 2016, was placed on paid administrative leave during an investigation. He retired two days after charges were filed.
Sonoma County prosecutors and a spokesperson for Novello’s lawyers declined to comment on the specifics of the case.
Cole said she was not yet ready to talk about the case, but she said she is glad to see light shed on the incident.
Police Chief Ken Savano said he couldn’t discuss details because the case is ongoing.
“The way we responded to this situation, not only as a police department, but as a city, demonstrates and shows an example of how we maintain the trust and confidence of the public we serve,” Savano said.
“I’m confident that when more of the details of this situation come out, that the public will see that we did what they expect us to do in terms of how we handled this,” he added.