Outside the Astoria nightclub, Ice Lounge, friends and family placed flowers and lit votive prayer candles honoring the 22-year-old Corona man who was shot dead by a NYPD detective early Thursday morning.
Above the memorial hangs a Xeroxed copy of Noel Polanco — described as not having one enemy — in his National Guard fatigues, which people had signed, including his mother who wrote “Mom loves you” flanked by two hearts.
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly is calling for a Grand Jury investigation of the police shooting. Queens District Attorney Richard Brown and the police department’s Office of Internal Affairs are also conducting their own investigations.
Polanco was shot during a traffic stop on the Grand Central Parkway near LaGuardia Airport. He had left the Ice Lounge, where he worked with other promoters filling hookahs, a little after 5 a.m.
He had not worked there that night, but was giving his friend Diane Deferrari, a bartender at the lounge, and her friend Vanessa Rodriguez, an off-duty police officer, a ride home. Polanco lived in the LeFrak complex with his mother and younger sister. The other two women live close by.
“Why him?” coworker and friend Alex Burgos said outside the lounge Sunday night. “He was one of the calmest kids. He had a clean record. Come on now.”
His coworkers organized a fundraiser — with a goal of $2,500 — at the lounge on Sunday to help his family pay for the funeral.
Polanco had joined the Army Reserves six months before, and had hoped to one day become a cop, according to Nelson De La Rosa, another coworker.
“He wanted to join the force. That was his goal,” De La Rosa said. “His brother is a sergeant. He wanted to follow in his footsteps.”
However, unarmed Polanco’s life ended Thursday morning.
“In that situation you don’t know what happened,” De La Rosa said. “I want to think it was an accident.”
Two unmarked vehicles with a police apprehension team had successfully executed a warrant in the Bronx and were driving near LaGuardia Airport to Brooklyn on another directive when they spotted an eastboung car weaving in between lanes, according to police.
The black 2012 Honda Fit Hybrid — Polanco’s prize possession, De La Rosa said — swerved into their lane, police said, cutting in between the two unmarked vehicles. He then began to tailgate another car in the next lane, the NYPD report adds.
Burgos insists Polanco was making his way home.
“He was trying to get over,” he said. “He was trying to get out of traffic.”
Unable to pass the car ahead of him the Honda changed lanes from the left lane in between the police vans back into the right lane. At that point, NYPD reports say, a car stop was attempted. One of the unmarked vehicles pulled in front of Polanco’s car and the second one pulled behind it, causing Polanco to pull over.
A sergeant and a detective, both in uniform, exited the front van and approached the Honda. Polanco stayed behind the wheel, while Deferrari sat in the front and Rodriguez dozed in the back seat.
Detective Hassan Hamdy, 39, a 14-year veteran of the force, discharged one round at the driver striking him once in the torso. Reportedly, Hamdy was named in a 2007 brutality case in which a Queens woman claimed the detective and other officers had illegally searched the home she shared with her grandson.
Polanco had reached under the seat for something they feared was a gun, radio reports said, though none was found. They later said a drill was there. But Deferrari said he had kept his hands on the steering wheel.
The driver was removed to New York Hospital Queens, where he was pronounced dead at 5:58 a.m.
“We’re very, very angry,” Burgos said. “What was your motive? What did he do to you?”