National Guardsman fatally shot during traffic stop on Grand Central Parkway
Jamie Schram, Georgett Roberts and Dan Mangan
Seth Gottfried The scene on Grand Central Parkway in Queens
An unarmed Army National Guardsman was pulled over on a Queens highway and shot to death by an NYPD officer from an elite unit today — and the DA now is probing the incident that the victim’s friend is calling a case of police “road rage.”
Noel Polanco, 22, had his hands on the steering wheel of his 2012 Honda Fit moments before Detective Hassan Hamdy shot him once in the torso, a woman sitting in the front passenger seat told police, NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said.
It is “unknown” if Polanco moved after Hamdy, 39, yelled, “Show me your hands!” to the three people in the car — one of them a sleeping off-duty cop in the back seat— on the Grand Central Parkway near La Guardia Airport at 5:15 a.m. today, Browne said.
The woman in the front seat, a bartender named Diane DeFerrari, “said she complied with the cop’s direction to raise her hands,” Browne said.
“The last thing she saw was [Polanco’s] hands on the steering wheel,” Browne added.
No weapon was found in the car. An electric drill was found on the driver’s-side floor.
“The matter is under investigation,” said a spokeswoman for Queens District Attorney Richard Brown.
DeFerrari, in a blistering statement tonight outside the Astoria nightclub where she worked with Polanco, accused the cops of killing him in "an act of road rage . . . because my friend cut off the police" without knowing they were NYPD officers.
Seth Gottfried Cops examine the area
"The police proceeded to try to chase us, sticking their middle finger at us and screaming obscenities at the car trying to pull us over and veered us into the divider of the left lane of the Grand Central Parkway," DeFerrari said.
"To pull you over and ask for your license and registration is one thing," she said.
But DeFerrari, 36, said the cops jumped "out of a vehicle rifles drawn and [said] simultaneously 'Put your hands up,"and I hear a pop which came in through my driver's side window."
"They could have hit me," she said. "I'm a mother of three."
"My friend - the only movement that was in the car when they say that they saw movement was when his hands were on the wheels and he shifted them down because he knew he was going to go to jail. At no point did he think he was going to be shot and killed."
d then they had us with our hands on the vehicle telling us your friend shot himself. I looked at the police officer," she said. "I was in utter shock. I couldn't at any time argue with them because these were the guys who shot my friend and there was no one else there to protect me. I didn't know what they were going to do to me."
"There was no gun. His hands were on the steering wheel at all times," DeFerrari said.
Polanco worked as a porter at the Paragon Honda dealership in Woodside — and also had a side job overseeing the hookah-pipe business at the Ice Lounge nightclub in Astoria.
He visited the bar early yesterday to pick up DeFerrari to give her a ride home — both live in the LeFrak housing complex in Corona. Polanco lived with his mom and teenage sister.
“He comes and picks up Diane because she has a DWI,” said Moez Abouelnaga, 22, Ice Lounge’s co-owner. “He comes every Wednesdays to pick her up.”
Polanco also drove home DiFerrari’s friend, Vanessa Rodriguez, 29 — an off-duty cop who has been on modified duty since she was arrested in June for shoplifting a sweater from a Queens mall.
DeFerrari later told cops she had served Hennessy Cognac to both Polanco and Rodriguez before they left, police said.
A witness also said Polanco also had a beer.
“He is not a heavy drinker,” said Abouelnaga. “Last night I do know he had one Corona.”
As Polanco headed east on the Grand Central Parkway — and began driving erratically, at one point cutting between two unmarked NYPD Emergency Service Unit vehicles in the center lane.
The officers — some in uniform — were headed to Brooklyn to serve a warrant, Browne said.
Polanco, who was in the right lane, cut between the ESU vehicles and then began tailgating a car in the left lane, Browne said.
When the cops turned on their lights and sirens and ordered Polanco to “pull over” on their speaker system, he sped up — even after DeFerrari told him she was afraid and asked him to slow down, Browne said.
“Why?” Polanco demanded, Browne said. “I’m not doing anything wrong.”
The two ESU vehicles — a large van and a truck — positioned themselves in front and back of the Honda and pulled Polanco over.
The sergeant driving the truck got out, as did Hamdy.
Hamdy walked up to the open window on the passenger’s side of Polanco’s car and ordered the occupants to raise their hands, Browne said. Two police sources claimed that Polanco was reaching under his seat when Hamdy fired the shot.
When EMS workers tried to save Polanco, he screamed and ripped out the intravenous line in his arm, a source said.
He was dead on arrival at New York Hospital in Queens.
The off-duty cop, Rodriguez, told officials she had been asleep — and that the gunfire woke her.
The version DeFerrari gave reporters last night painted the cops as out of control.
"Their cars were at no time marked and labeled police," DeFerrari said. "I honestly thought it was an armored car and a security for the armored car. At no time did they specified that they were police."
"You wouldn't expect your police officers who are here to protect and serve you to be sticking their middle finger and yelling obscenities."
She said that when the cops began cursing at Polanco, ""My friend sped up -- obviously he was very nervous. There was no sirens. It was just lights. My friend sped up to get away from the screaming cops."
"They went ahead and tried to pull us over again where they succeeded," she said.
"I was in complete panic. I heard a pop," DeFerrari said.
"There was gun powder residue in my face. I hear him take a gasp. I looked over at him. He just looked at me."
"Next thing, there are three officers at my door trying to get us out," she said. "The police officer in tthe back who is my friend was sleeping the entire time. She did not see anything. She woke up to the gunshot and then the officers on the doors trying to open the door."
"Once they got us out of the car they pulled him as if he was a dog along the sidewalk," DeFerrari said.
"I did not have one drink," she said. "Drinking had nothing to do with this incident at all. Whatever drinks we had here had no bearings on how the cops acted.”
Polanco’s friends and co-workers hailed him as a “great kid.”
He was an “outgoing, cool guy, very easy to get along with. He wasn’t rowdy. I don’t see him provoking the cop,” said friend Tito Cordero, 27.
Polanco — whose father recently committed suicide — joined the Guard in 2008. He has an older brother on active Army duty.
“He’s a very hard worker, very dedicated, and he was extremely polite, always saying, ‘Yes sir, no sir,’ ” said Dino Marshall, Polanco’s supervisor at Paragon
Additional reporting by Erin Calabrese, Christina Carrega, Kate Kowsh, Selim Algar and Jennifer Bain
Seth Gottfried Another shot of the situation