Grand Jury Declines to Indict in Police Shooting on Grand Central Parkway

A grand jury has chosen not to indict an NYPD officer in the fatal shooting of a 22-year-old unarmed driver the cop pulled over on a busy highway near LaGuardia Airport last October. 

A Queens grand jury has determined no criminal charges should be filed in the shooting death of Noel Polanco, who was shot by an officer while pulled over on the Grand Central Parkway. 

Polanco was on his way home to Corona from his job at the Ice Lounge in Astoria on Oct. 4, and had offered a ride to a colleague, bartender Diana D'Ferrari, and another woman, who was an off-duty police officer, according to law enforcement sources.

As they headed home on the Grand Central Parkway, Polanco, who had aspirations of becoming a cop, was pulled over after cutting off what turned out to be an unmarked police van.

When Polanco stopped the car, Detective Hassan Hamdy, a 12-year veteran assigned to the Emergency Services Unit, approached the vehicle and asked him to show his hands, according to police. 

The detective fired a single shot through the passenger-side window and hit Polanco in the stomach. He was taken to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

It's not clear what prompted the detective to fire the shot. Sources said Hamdy may have thought Polanco was reaching for a gun under his seat. But D'Ferrari, who was sitting in the front passenger seat, said his hands were on the steering wheel "at all times" and that the officers were angry when they pulled him over. 

No gun was recovered from the car.

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The off-duty police officer in the car, who was in the back seat, told investigators she was asleep at the time.

The grand jury met nine separate times over a five-week period, according to Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown, who said no information from the grand jury investigation could be released.

Brown added, "Suffice it to say, however, that this office conducted a thorough, complete and independent investigation into all of the facts and circumstances surrounding Mr. Polanco’s death."

Brown said prosecutors interviewed witnesses and examined evidence, and presented all the evidence to the grand jury. 

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

Hamdy could still face departmental charges following an internal review.

Polanco's relatives were extremely disappointed by the grand jury news, family attorney Sanford Rubenstein said. They will meet in the near future with their advisers to determine the best way to move forward "in their quest for justice," he said.

Ash Raf Selim, the owner of the bar where Polanco worked, said, "I feel so bad for his family -- his mom and his sister. Who's going to take care of them now?"

Polanco was honored with a posthumous promotion at his funeral. The portrait that emerged during the two-hour service Oct. 12 was of a loving son and brother who worked several jobs, performed weekend National Guard service and joined a club for car enthusiasts called Center of Attention.

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