Hundreds were drawn to Corona, Queens yesterday for the funeral of Noel Polanco, the 22-year-old unarmed National Guardsman who was killed by an NYPD officer on Grand Central Parkway last week. Among the mourners were friends, family and fellow soldiers, who gave Noel a 21-gun salute as taps was played at his burial.
Polanco, whose coffin was clad in an American flag, was promoted posthumously to sergeant during the service. With this new rank, facing an investigation may be a greater challenge for Hassan Hamdy, the NYPD ESU detective who killed Polanco during a traffic stop. Polanco had cut off an ESU vehicle on the highway, and when he was pulled over (police say he was driving erratically), Hamdy shot him. The passenger in the car said Polanco's hands were on the steering wheel and that Hamdy acted out of "road rage."
The Reverend Al Sharpton delivered the eulogy, lambasting the officers who killed Polanco. "When you saw him as a suspect, well, he was a soldier," Sharpton said, reports the Post. "When you saw him as a gang member, well, his gang was the U.S. Army."
For the family on hand, burying their brother and son in the wake of this tragedy proved an emotional struggle. "I just want my baby! That's all I want! Oh my God!" said Polanco's mother, Cecilia Reyes, who had to be pulled away from the grave. Polanco's brother, Army Sgt. Jonathan Polanco, was more staid. "I want my brother to rest in peace," he said. "But I know along with peace, you have to have justice as well."
The case is likely to end up in the hands of a grand jury. The last two suits Hamdy was involved in for excessive force settled, for $235,000 and $291,000. But with Polanco's status as a National Guard Sergeant and the now high-profile nature of the case, Hamdy may not get off so easy. It certainly won't help that Polanco wanted to be an NYPD officer. "All he wanted to do was go to the military, continue his career in the military, and then continue his career as an officer," his mother said. "That was his dream."