By Rebecca Henely
More than 150 mourners, many of whom wore National Guardsmen uniforms, filled the seats and lined the walls at the Eternal Love Baptist Church in Corona Friday to say goodbye to Noel Polanco, a 22-year-old man who was shot by a police detective during a traffic stop even though he was unarmed.
“I just want to say my son was an amazing child,” said Polanco’s mother Cecilia Reyes during the funeral. “He had a great heart.”
Officers in two Emergency Service Unit Apprehension Team vehicles had seen Polanco Oct. 4 at around 5:15 a.m. on the Grand Central Parkway near Exit 7 in East Elmhurst driving erratically in a black 2012 Honda Fit Hybrid, cutting through the vehicles and tailgating another car, police said.
Officers pulled Polanco over and one of them, Detective Hassan Hamdy, ended up shooting Polanco in the stomach, according to the NYPD. He died at New York Hospital Queens in Flushing shortly thereafter, police said.
No weapon was found in the car, the DA said.
Polanco was a National Guard Reserves member who worked at Paragon Honda in Woodside during the day and the Ice Lounge in Astoria at night as a hookah maker and seller. He was also a member of the Center of Attention Auto Club and a tattoo artist.
Members of both his National Guard company and the auto club came to the funeral, held at the church at 54-07 99th St., along with friends and family members. Minister and activist the Rev. Al Sharpton, who walked with Reyes into the church, gave an extensive eulogy calling for Hamdy’s prosecution.
“When you saw him, you saw a suspect instead of a sergeant,” Sharpton said. “We need to stop this reckless disregard for human life.”
Philip Karasyk, of Karasyk & Moschella LLP, who is representing Hamdy, said Polanco had refused the officers’ orders multiple times and that Hamdy had observed what he believed was Polanco reaching down for a weapon.
“Police officers operate on an offending scale of threat,” Karasyk said.
Diane DeFerrari, who was in Polanco’s car and witnessed the shooting, said Polanco had kept his hands on the steering wheel.
Reyes had met with Queens District Attorney Richard Brown the day before with her attorneys, Sanford Rubenstein and Michael Hardy. She told a news conference in front of Queens Criminal Court that she believed she would get “justice” for her son’s death.
Brown said in a statement that he told Reyes and her attorneys during their meeting that his office was looking into the incident based on the facts and the law.
“I assured them that our investigation is active and ongoing, and that it will be completed as expeditiously as possible,” Brown said. “I pointed out, however, that the investigation is still in its early stages.”
Hardy said Reyes, the Polanco family and DeFerrari would cooperate with the investigation and that he expected a grand jury to rule in Reyes’ favor.
“No person in this borough should be subjected to a wrongful death,” Hardy said.
Karasyk said he and his client were “ready and willing” to cooperate with the DA.
Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4564.