The fatal police shooting of an unarmed driver on the Grand Central Parkway yesterday morning is now being investigated by NYPD Internal Affairs as well as the Queens DA's office. This comes as the one passenger who witnessed the exchange says the slain man, 22-year-old National Guardsman Noel Polanco, didn't have enough time to put his hands up, affirming that the cops "acted in pure road rage."
Police say that Polanco, in a 2012 Honda Fit Hybrid was "driving erratically" on the highway near LaGuardia Airport, claiming that he "cut in between the two unmarked ESU vehicles into the left lane and began to tailgate another car" and "unsafely changes lanes." So the ESU vehicles stopped Polanco, who was driving Diane DeFerrari, a bartender sitting in the front passenger seat, and Vanessa Rodriguez, an off-duty police officer who claimed she was sleeping in the backseat.
DeFerrari ripped the cops when talking to the reporters, saying that she believed that the cops were acting out of "road rage" because he cut them off. From the Post:
She said cops had been chasing them, “sticking their middle fingers at us and screaming obscenities.’’
DeFerrari, 36, said the cops jumped out with “rifles drawn,’’ and, as they ordered, “Put your hands up,’’ Hamdy fired.
“There was no time to put your hands up at all,” said DeFerrari, a mom of three. “They shot in front of my face. Had I moved an inch, it would probably have been me.’’
She said the cop later said, “ ‘Your friend shot himself’ . . . I was in utter shock.’’ But “his hands were on the steering wheel at all times..”
The detective, Hassan Hamdy, who was on her side of the car fired at Polanco across from her—she said she "felt powder" on her face. DeFerrari added that she didn't contradict the cops, "I didn’t dispute what I saw because I was afraid. They wouldn’t let me look at him." She added, "There was no reason for this innocent to be killed. He was shot intentionally."
Initial reports had said that Polanco was perhaps reaching for something under his seat—hence the police fire. NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said, "We looked for a weapon, we didn’t find any; we found a drill. I’m not saying it played a role. I’m just saying we looked for a weapon. We did not find a weapon. The only thing we found was that drill." Browne added that DeFerrari had served Polanco and Rodriguez drinks at the Ice Lounge before Polanco drove them home, "Basically to save on cab fare, they take up the offer of the guy" for a ride. (Polanco and DeFerrari live in the same apartment building.)
However DeFerrari said that while Polanco cut off the ESU vehicle, the police tried to run his car off off the road: "Noel sped up to get away from the car. There were no sirens, just lights. I told Noel to stop the car, but we caught a clearing and took off."
Polanco was working at a Honda dealership while apparently waiting to return to the Army. His mother said at a vigil, “We’re going to make sure justice is done. .. He was my baby. Not a criminal. They took an innocent life." She added to the Daily News, "I never had to worry about him. He had never been in a precinct in his life. He was in the military and would never do anything to endanger his career."