Jury clears officer in death of Corona Guardsman

By Rebecca Henely

A Queens grand jury has decided that no criminal charges should be filed against Hassan Hamdy, an NYPD detective who shot and killed an unarmed Corona National Guardsman during a traffic stop in October, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said in a statement Thursday.

Brown said that given provisions related to grand jury secrecy, he could not discuss how the jury arrived at its conclusion but said the office conducted a “thorough, complete and independent investigation” into the shooting of 22-year-old Noel Polanco.

“Mr. Polanco’s death remains a tragedy and I again express my sympathy to his family for their loss,” Brown said.

A member of the NYPD Emergency Service Unit Apprehension Team, Hamdy was one of several officers in two unmarked vans driving in the center lane eastbound on the Grand Central Parkway Oct. 4 at 5:15 a.m. when Polanco was seen in his black 2012 Honda Fit Hybrid near Exit 7 in East Elmhurst, the NYPD said. Officers said they saw Polanco driving erratically in the right lane, cutting between the vans, tailgating another vehicle in the left lane, then cutting back in between the vans to the right lane, police said.

Philip Karasyk, attorney for Hamdy, said the detective saw Polanco reaching for something and shot him in the stomach, believing it to be a weapon. One of the two passengers in the car, Diane DeFerrari, told reporters Polanco kept his hands on the steering wheel. The other passenger, off-duty cop Vanessa Rodriguez, was sleeping at the time.

No weapon was found in the car, the DA said. Polanco died shortly after being shot at New York Hospital Queens in Flushing.

Polanco worked not only as a National Guard Reserves member, but at the Paragon Honda car dealership in Woodside during the day and at the Ice Lounge in Astoria at night as a hookah maker and seller. Rev. Al Sharpton called for Hamdy’s prosecution at Polanco’s funeral.

Brown said the grand jury met on nine separate occasions during a five-week period.

“We interviewed all witnesses to that which occurred and examined all documentary evidence,” Brown said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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