The mother of a Corona National Guardsman who police say was fatally shot by an NYPD detective on the Grand Central Parkway last Thursday stood with the Rev. Al Sharpton in Manhattan Saturday to demand a thorough investigation.
“I’m going to go for justice,” said Cecilia Reyes, whose son Noel Polanco, 23, was killed. “This is not going to stay like this. He was not the kid that they’re trying to make him out to be.”
NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly, who met with Reyes last week to offer his condolences, said a grand jury investigation could be required to unravel what led up to Polanco’s death, the New York Post reported.
At 5:15 a.m. last Thursday, members of the NYPD Emergency Service Unit Apprehension Team were driving eastbound in two unmarked vans on the center lane of the Grand Central Parkway near Exit 7 to LaGuardia Airport, police said.
The officers saw Polanco’s car, a black 2012 Honda Fit Hybrid, driving erratically in the right lane before cutting between the two ESU vehicles into the left lane, tailgating a car and then crossing back in-between the ESU vans again to the right lane, according to the NYPD.
The ESU vehicles forced the car to pull over, and then a uniformed sergeant and detective, Hassan Handy, both got out of the front van and approached the car, police said.
Polanco was sitting in the driver’s seat while two women, bartender Diane DeFerrari and off-duty cop Vanessa Rodriguez, were riding with him. Rodriguez was sleeping but DeFerrari later told NY 1 the officers demanded the three people in the car put their hands up but did not give Polanco enough time to do so. She said to NY 1 that Polanco lowered his hands slightly but kept them on the steering wheel before Hassan shot him once in the stomach.
“He was shot intentionally,” DeFerrari told NY 1. “No doubt in my mind.”
Polanco died less than an hour later, 5:58 a.m., at New York Hospital Queens, police said.
No weapons were found in the car, District Attorney Richard Brown said in a statement.
Sharpton held a press conference with Reyes Saturday demanding a fair and immediate investigation.
“We want to believe in the law,” Reyes said. “We don’t want to have to be afraid of the law.”
Philip Karasyk, a Manhattan lawyer for Hamdy, told the Post that Polanco did not follow the police’s commands.
“We once again ask the citizens of New York to withhold judgment until all the facts are known,” Karasyk said to the Post.
He told the Post his client was eager to testify.
Another source told the Post Hassan had “feared for his life” and that Polanco dropped his hands, in what Hassan thought was an attempt to get a weapon.
Brown said his office and NYPD’s Internal Affairs Division would be looking into the shooting.
“The public can be assured that the investigation will be full, fair and complete,” Brown said. “Until the investigation is concluded, my office will refrain from making any comment.”
Hassan had previously had civil rights cases levied against him, but they were settled by the city, the Post reported.
Juan Polanco, Noel’s 53-year-old father, said during a phone interview from Colombia that his son was in the National Guard. Polanco grew up in Jamaica and attended Hillcrest High School, according to relatives. He also worked two jobs: one at Parragon Honda in Woodside and the other at Ice Lounge in Astoria. Juan Polanco described his son as a good kid.
“His step dad just passed away,” Juan Polanco said. “He was taking care of the house.”
Dozens of people — including about 30 fellow National Guard members — attended a memorial Sunday for Noel Polanco at Tavern Lounge, at 97-07 Jamaica Ave. in Woodhaven, organized by the Center of Attention auto club. Outside a posterboard was decorated with photos of the avid car lover and messages from COA members.
National Guard Spec. Angel Reyes — no relation to Cecilia Reyes — said Polanco loved music, tattoos, cars and DJ-ing.
“He was a great kid,” Angel Reyes said. “He didn’t have a bad bone in his body.”
Additional reporting by Christina Santucci.
Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cn
©2012 Community News Group
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