A 22-year-old man who was unarmed when he was fatally shot by an NYPD detective after being pulled over on a Queens highway is being remembered as an "outgoing and caring person" at his funeral Friday by his family and friends, who continue to call for justice in his death.
Noel Polanco's mother, Cecilia Reyes, walked into her son's childhood church with tears brimming her eyes as she struggled to maintain composure. The Rev. Al Sharpton delivered the eulogy for Polanco, who died after being shot in the stomach on Grand Central Parkway near LaGuardia Oct. 4.
"He wasn't born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He worked to take care of his mama and sister. He served in the U.S. Army to defend this country," Sharpton said. "He wanted to be a New York City cop. He didn't have stripes from a gang. He had stripes because he was promoted sergeant by the U.S. Army."
Polanco, a former National Guardsman, was honored with a posthumous promotion by his batallion commander, Lt. Col. James Freehart, who read the proclamation at the funeral.
"The Army made you a sergeant,'' the Rev. Sharpton said in the eulogy. "God's going to give you your wings.''
Polanco was driving a co-worker, Diana DeFerrari, and her friend home after his shift at the Ice Lounge in Astoria when he cut off an unmarked police van and officers pulled him over.
A lawyer for the detective who shot Polanco said the man did not comply with the detective's orders to put his hands up as he approached his vehicle. The lawyer said Polanco reached for something under his seat.
DeFerrari disputes that Polanco had time to comply with the officer's requests to show his hands. She said his hands were on the steering wheel during the brief encounter. Under his seat was an electric power drill. No gun was recovered.
"No crime, no weapon, no record. I read the arrogant statement of 'What did police do wrong?' The real question is what did Noel do wrong," Sharpton said Friday. "We have to stop this reckless disregard for human life. There is not one time I've heard the city say, 'Yes we're wrong.'"
On Thursday, Polanco's mother, Cecilia Reyes, met with Queens District Attorney Richard Brown. Brown said he told Reyes that he expects to present the case to a grand jury.