Federal probe of man shot by NYPD detective, family says

Josh Einiger reports from Downtown Brooklyn.
October 17, 2013 3:35:01 PM PDT
Lawyers representing the family of an unarmed driver killed by a New York City police detective say federal prosecutors have begun a preliminary investigation into the incident.

22-year old National Guardsman Noel Polanco was shot and killed Oct. 4, 2012 on the Grand Central Parkway.

Detective Hassan Hamdy shot Polanco near LaGuardia Airport. Polanco had been weaving in and out of traffic after a night of drinking and initially resisted police efforts to pull him over, authorities said.

Hamdy said Polanco reached under his seat after being ordered to keep his hands on the wheel. Polanco's supporters dispute that account.

In February, a grand jury voted not to indict Hamdy on criminal charges.

Passenger Diane Deferrari said there was nothing to provoke police to fire. She said officers yelled obscenities before pulling over their car and pointed their guns through her open window. She said the bullet that struck Polanco in the abdomen narrowly missed her.

Deferrari said one of the officers told her: "Your friend shot himself."

An off-duty police officer, Vanessa Rodriguez, was asleep in the back seat and was awakened by the gunshot.

Deferrari said she complied with an order to raise her hands but Polanco's hands remained on the steering wheel.

The shooting prompted an investigation by the Queens district attorney's office. District Attorney Richard Brown said the office conducted a thorough probe and presented all the evidence to the grand jury.

"We interviewed all witnesses to that which occurred and examined all available documentary evidence," Brown said. "Mr. Polanco's death remains a tragedy, and I again express my sympathy to his family for their loss."

Polanco was honored with a posthumous promotion at his funeral. The portrait that emerged during the two-hour service was of a loving son and brother who worked several jobs, performed weekend National Guard service and joined a club for car enthusiasts called Center of Attention.