Waiting for Answers

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The police shooting last week of an unarmed man on the Grand Central Parkway raises questions that need to be answered.

The police say 23-year-old Corona resident Noel Polanco was driving erratically in a black 2012 Honda Fit Hybrid. When he was pulled over, he was told, “Show me your hands.”

Instead, police say, he reached under his seat. Detective Hassan Hamdy then fired a round into Polanco’s stomach, killing him. Police found no weapons in the car.

Five days later, Hamdy has not explained why he fired his weapon. Neither has NYPD brass.

Nothing about this shooting makes sense. The detective is a decorated member of the Tactical Apprehension Team, responsible for catching some of the city’s most violent drug and gun suspects.

The shooting took place at 5:15 a.m. and yet Polanco’s mother Cecilia Reyes was not told that her son had been shot until 2 p.m. at Elmhurst Hospital, where she works.

We cannot imagine any justification for killing this man. There are a hundred reasons why he may have reached under his seat, but none of them justify his getting shot.

One of the passengers in the car described the incident as “police road rage.”

Edward Mullins, president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, dismissed that analysis: “Do you know the level of stress and training that’s involved with this unit? These are experienced, veteran police officers who are used to being under heavy, stressful situations.”

Michael Palladino, president of the Detectives’ Endowment Association, told a reporter Friday night, “We have gone down this road before, so I ask the public to withhold their judgment until the investigation is complete.”

There has been plenty of time for a preliminary investigation.

Incidents like these weaken respect for and confidence in police. How closely does the department monitor detectives and other officers assigned to the most high-stress and dangerous units?

On Friday night, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly offered his condolences during a brief meeting with Reyes in her Queens home.

It’s not too soon for the commissioner to say this shooting was an inexcusable mistake. Polanco’s mother and friends deserve that.

Posted 10:47 pm, October 10, 2012
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