Mourners gathered today at the Eternal Love Baptist Church in Corona for the funeral of Noel Polanco, the unarmed man killed by a police detective on the Grand Central Parkway last week.
Family and friends packed the church to say "See you later" to the 22-year-old Army National Guardsman who was shot Oct. 4. His sister Amanda Reyes said she didn't want to say to goodbye, instead she said through a few tears "I'll see you later. Meet me at those stairs."
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." There was also a tone of civic justice.
"I want my brother to rest in peace," said Army Sgt. Jonathan Polanco, his oldest brother. "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 ranks of sergeant.
Many of his friends, who affectionately called him Sparxx, filled the pews. They spoke about his "swing swag and Jersey Shore style." They spoke about his love for his family and how he worked four jobs to support his mother and younger sister. Almost everyone said he never hesitated to lend a helping hand.
His friends in the auto club he was a member of, Center Of Attention, 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 and was shot after he reached for something under the seat. No weapon was found and a passenger in Polanco's car disputed the cop's account of the event.
Polanco will be buried with full military honors at Maple Grove Cemetery in Kew Gardens.
Cecilia Reyes, Polanco's mother, met Thursday with Queens DA Richard Brown, who said the case against the cop who shot Polanco will go to a grand jury.