Unarmed Man Killed by NYPD in Queens Wanted to Become a Cop, Mom Says

By DNAinfo Staff  on October 5, 2012 11:30am  | Updated on October 5, 2012 4:47pm

QUEENS — The unarmed Army National Guardsman who was shot and killed by cops during a car stop on the Grand Central Parkway dreamed of becoming a cop after he left the military, his devastated mom said Friday.

The heartbreaking revelation came as the Queens District Attorney's Office said that it was probing the 5:15 a.m. incident near LaGuardia Airport that left Noel Polanco, 22, dead, a month before he was set to celebrate his 23rd birthday.

Cecilia Reyes, 46, said that her son, who worked at a local Honda dealership and served in the army reserves, wanted to join the active military and eventually the NYPD.

“He wanted to become a cop," she said as she choked back tears. "He wanted to go and be active [in the military] and after he came back out, he wanted that as a career.

“He was very, very happy about wanting to go away and come back as an officer.”

The fact that Polanco, who Reyes said stayed away from trouble, was killed by a police officer was a cruel twist, Reyes said.

“He always wanted to become a cop and to find out that his life was taken by a police officer… They have to know how to do their job," she said.

“I wasn’t even able to become a grandmother. They took him away so young. He was going to be 23 next month.”

Hours before the shooting, Polanco went to Ice Lounge, in Astoria, where he worked part-time setting up hookahs, to pick up a friend, bartender Diane DiFerrari, as he often did, according to one of the club's owners, Moez Abouelmaga.

"He was a hard working guy," he said. "He always cared about his mother."

Polanco also agreed to give a ride to Vanessa Rodriguez, an off-duty cop who he knew from his apartment complex in Lefrak City.

The trio was headed home when Polanco was allegedly spotted driving erratically at 5:15 a.m.

Sources said that cops in two unmarked Emergency Service Unit vehicles saw Polanco whizzing in and out of traffic, then speed past the two ESU vehicles, almost hitting a van carrying several ESU officers who were on their way to serve a warrant in Brooklyn, sources said.

Because a sergeant with the ESU team thought Polanco could be a danger to himself or other drivers, the ESU team made the unusual move of putting on its lights and sirens and pulling over Polanco, sources said. The ESU team generally doesn't make traffic stops — its job is to serve warrants at the homes of dangerous suspects.

Polanco at first tried to evade cops, but the ESU vehicles boxed him in and forced his car to the left side of the road near 94th Street, sources said.

Det. Hassan Hamdy, who was sitting in the second row of the ESU van, got out first and approached Polanco's vehicle alone on the passenger side, sources said.

He was in uniform, wearing a bullet-proof vest marked with the word "police" in prominent white letters, sources said. As Hamdy approached, he shouted, "Police, let me see your hands!" Instead of following the order, Polanco allegedly reached toward the floor, sources said. That's when Hamdy fired the single shot that killed Polanco, sources said.

Other accounts of the shooting differed.

Cops initially said that Polanco, who recently lost his stepfather to suicide, reached under the seat for what appeared to be a power tool, but later said that the circumstances of the shooting were not clear. No weapon was found, but police did find a yellow power drill in Polanco's car, sources said.

The bartender, Diane DiFerrari, who was in the front passenger seat, also told police that Polanco's hands were on the steering wheel when he was shot through the open window, sources said.

The woman had also been scared by Polanco's driving, and said she she had asked him to slow down and stop, sources said.

"Noel didn't have a chance to put his hands up. They screamed, 'Put up your hands!' and shot at the same time," said DeFerrari, 36, who was riding in the front passenger seat, according to the New York Daily News.

"They acted in pure road rage."

The off-duty officer who was riding with Polanco in his 2012 Honda Fit, Rodriguez, has been on modified duty — meaning that she was stripped of her gun and badge — for allegedly stealing a sweater from an H&M store in Queens.

Sources said that Rodriguez, a friend of Polanco's from the neighborhood, was sleeping in the back seat when she was awoken by the gunshot.

Polanco's mom, who lived with her son in Lefrak City, demanded justice in the wake of the shooting and said that she was looking to retain a lawyer.

“It should be investigated," she said. "I want him to pay for what he did to my son because he doesn’t know the pain that he put us through.

“I want justice.”

Polanco's 15-year-old sister, Amanda, agreed. "He was a hard working man," he said. "We're gonna get justice."

Queens DA Richard Brown said in a statement Friday that the incident was "being investigated by my office and the New York City Police Department’s Internal Affairs Division."

"The public can be assured that the investigation will be full, fair and complete," he added.

Hamdy, who has since been placed on modified duty, was part of the ESU's Apprehension Team, a citywide unit that sometimes tangles with violent suspects in its search for wanted criminals.

The team had just come from executing a search warrant in The Bronx and was on its way to Brooklyn to do the same, sources said.

Hamdy, who has since been placed on modified duty, was named in a 2007 lawsuit that alleged that he and other officers roughed up a Queens man and his grandmother.  The city settled the case for $235,000.

But Hamdy, a nine-year veteran has also been lauded for his heroics on the job, helping save people from a burning Queens building in May and reportedly negotiated the surrender of a man armed with a machete in 2008.

Polanco's fellow soldiers came to his house Friday to express their condolences, including Spc. Radoslaw Musiej, 33, U.S. Army specialist, who served in the National Guard with Polanco for five years.

"The guy never raised his voice to anybody," he said. "We liked to break each other's chops in the unit, and he always took everything in stride.''

''I loved the guy. We all did. He was more than a brother.''

Musiej said that he and Polanco rose through the ranks together and that he had submitted his paperwork to go on active duty.

''Do the right thing. Let the truth come out. Somebody did something wrong, and I'm pretty sure it wasn't him.'"

A fundraiser will be held for Polanco's family at Ice Lounge beginning at 8 p.m. Sunday and the public is welcome.

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