An unarmed member of the Army National Guard was shot and killed on Friday night by an NYPD officer, Detective Hassad Hamdy. Noel Polanco, 22, was dead on arrival at New York Hospital in Queens.
Polanco was driving on the Grand Central Parkway with his neighbor, Diane DeFerrari, and a sleeping off-duty police officer, Vanessa Rodriguez, when he made the fatal mistake of cutting off an unmarked NYPD Emergency Services Unit vehicle. The vehicle immediately began pursuing Polanco, who, according to DeFerrari, had no idea that the occupants were police officers. She paints a picture of road rage, as she describes the officers shouting obscenities, making obscene gestures and deliberately steering Polanco into the median.
DeFerrari described the incident to the New York Post
“The police proceeded to try to chase us, sticking their middle finger at us and screaming obscenities at the car trying to pull us over and veered us into the divider of the left lane of the Grand Central Parkway,” DeFerrari said.
“To pull you over and ask for your license and registration is one thing,” she said.
But DeFerrari, 36, said the cops jumped “out of a vehicle rifles drawn and [said] simultaneously ‘Put your hands up,”and I hear a pop which came in through my driver’s side window.”
“They could have hit me,” she said. “I’m a mother of three.”
“My friend – the only movement that was in the car when they say that they saw movement was when his hands were on the wheels and he shifted them down because he knew he was going to go to jail. At no point did he think he was going to be shot and killed.”
“And then they had us with our hands on the vehicle telling us your friend shot himself. I looked at the police officer,” she said. “I was in utter shock. I couldn’t at any time argue with them because these were the guys who shot my friend and there was no one else there to protect me. I didn’t know what they were going to do to me.”
“Their cars were at no time marked and labeled police,” DeFerrari said. “I honestly thought it was an armored car and a security for the armored car. At no time did they specified that they were police.”
“You wouldn’t expect your police officers who are here to protect and serve you to be sticking their middle finger and yelling obscenities.”
She said that when the cops began cursing at Polanco, “”My friend sped up — obviously he was very nervous. There was no sirens. It was just lights. My friend sped up to get away from the screaming cops.”
“They went ahead and tried to pull us over again where they succeeded,” she said.
“I was in complete panic. I heard a pop,” DeFerrari said.
“There was gun powder residue in my face. I hear him take a gasp. I looked over at him. He just looked at me.”
“Next thing, there are three officers at my door trying to get us out,” she said. “The police officer in tthe back who is my friend was sleeping the entire time. She did not see anything. She woke up to the gunshot and then the officers on the doors trying to open the door.”
“Once they got us out of the car they pulled him as if he was a dog along the sidewalk,” DeFerrari said.
A spokesperson for the Queens District Attorney’s office says that the incident is under investigation. The officers gave a very different description of the fatal shooting, according to DA Richard Brown.
As Polanco headed east on the Grand Central Parkway — and began driving erratically, at one point cutting between two unmarked NYPD Emergency Service Unit vehicles in the center lane.
The officers — some in uniform — were headed to Brooklyn to serve a warrant, Browne said.
Polanco, who was in the right lane, cut between the ESU vehicles and then began tailgating a car in the left lane, Browne said.
When the cops turned on their lights and sirens and ordered Polanco to “pull over” on their speaker system, he sped up — even after DeFerrari told him she was afraid and asked him to slow down, Browne said.
“Why?” Polanco demanded, Browne said. “I’m not doing anything wrong.”
The two ESU vehicles — a large van and a truck — positioned themselves in front and back of the Honda and pulled Polanco over.
The sergeant driving the truck got out, as did Hamdy.
Hamdy walked up to the open window on the passenger’s side of Polanco’s car and ordered the occupants to raise their hands, Browne said. Two police sources claimed that Polanco was reaching under his seat when Hamdy fired the shot.
This is not the first time Hamdy has been accused of brutality. The Huffington Post reported on two separate civil cases that resulted in large payouts from police coffers to his alleged victims.
In one case, Hamdy was “one of several officers named in a 2007 brutality lawsuit by a Queens grandmother and her grandson who said they were terrorized by police after being subjected to an illegal search of their home. The suit was settled for $235,000.” Details of the other case were not available, but the city settled with the victim or victims for $291,000 in 2001.
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