There were many different “uniforms” displayed in the pews last Friday at the Eternal Love Baptist Church in Corona for the funeral of Noel Polanco, the unarmed Army National guardsman killed by a police detective on the Grand Central Parkway on Oct. 4.There were those uniforms of the Army; those of Center of Attention, the car club he was a member of; there was the traditional black funeral wear as well as many sweatshirts and T-shirts reading “RIP Sparkxx,” the nickname Polanco’s friends affectionately called him.
Although many tears were shed, the funeral had a celebratory tone. The Rev. Theresa Gaskin spoke of not asking God why, but instead thanking him for “this wonderful life.” People raised their hands up as they passionately sang songs of praise and spoke of heaven and seeing Polanco, 22, there.
His sister Amanda Reyes said she didn’t want to say to goodbye, but instead said through a few tears “I’ll see you later. Meet me at those stairs.”
His mother, Cecilia Reyes, also spoke of the afterlife: “My son was an amazing child. I will miss him with all my heart ... but I know we will meet again.”
There was also a tone of civic justice. People held signs outside the church’s doors that read “Stop police brutality” and “Again a trigger-happy policeman kills an innocent kid.”
Inside Army Sgt. Jonathan Polanco, Noel’s eldest brother, said “I want my brother to rest in peace. I know in order to rest in peace we need justice as well.”
“When you saw him you saw a suspect,” the Rev. Al Sharpton said of the police. “He wasn’t a gang member. His gang was the U.S. Army. Stop this reckless disregard for human life.”
Many of the individuals who served in the Army Reserves with Polanco attended the funeral. They talked of his above-and-beyond work in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and promoted him to the rank of sergeant as funeral attendees wept.
His casket was draped with the American flag and then carried out by members of the Army, a few of whom could not hold back tears for their fallen fellow guardsman as they put Polanco’s body into the hearse.
A procession of cars with Polanco’s name written on the windows followed the casket to Maple Grove Cemetery in Kew Gardens, where he was buried with full military honors.
His friends spoke about his “swing swag and Jersey Shore style.” They reiterated his love for his family and how he worked four jobs, including one at the Ice Lounge in Astoria where he picked up a friend the night of his death, to support his mother and only sister. Almost everyone said he never hesitated to lend a helping hand.
His friends in Center of Attention, all wearing black jackets with the club’s purple insignia, spoke of his love for cars as well as his love for others. He customized and babied the black Honda he was shot in on Oct. 4.
Police say he was pulled over for driving erratically near LaGuardia Airport and was shot after he reached for something under the seat. No weapon was found and a passenger in Polanco’s car disputed the officers’ account of the event.
Reyes met Thursday with Queens DA Richard Brown, who said the case against Detective Hassan Hamdy, a 14-year veteran of the force and a former Marine, who shot Polanco, will go to a grand jury.