Man shot on Grand Central Parkway was unarmed, NYPD says
Police shot and killed an unarmed man who had been driving his Honda -- with an off-duty NYPD officer asleep in the backseat -- erratically on the Grand Central Parkway in Queens early Thursday, officials said.
The dead man, who had the female officer and another passenger with him, was identified as Noel Polanco by the manager at the Ice Lounge in Astoria, where he worked. The shooting occurred at 5:15 a.m., said NYPD spokesman Paul Browne.
Thursday night, law enforcement sources identified the officer who shot Polanco as Hassam Hamdy, who lives in Centereach. A Newsday reporter's attempts to reach Hamdy, who joined the NYPD in 1998, at his home Thursday night were rebuffed by a Suffolk police unit parked by his house. A Suffolk spokeswoman did not know why the patrol unit was at the home.
Browne said that as the Honda traveled eastbound on the Grand Central, it was moving in and out of lanes and cut between two emergency service unit vans with officers who were part of an apprehension team that had just executed an arrest warrant in the Bronx. Officers told the driver to pull over by Exit 7 near LaGuardia Airport, Browne said.
With the Honda against a median barricade and boxed in at the front and rear by the police vans, a detective exited the lead police vehicle and approached an open window on the Honda's passenger side, Browne said.
A woman passenger in the front raised her hands as instructed and then the detective fired past her, striking the driver in the abdomen, Browne said.
The woman said she had berated the driver for going too fast, and the last she saw him he had both hands on the steering wheel, according to Browne. A source said that Polanco did not comply with an order to raise his hands.
A yellow electric drill was on the front floor of the car.
The off-duty officer, Vanessa Rodriguez, was asleep in the backseat during the fatal encounter, a source said.
Polanco was taken to New York Queens Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 5:58 a.m. Polanco worked in the Ice Lounge's hookah section, where patrons smoke tobacco through water pipes.
The club closed at 4 a.m. and Polanco offered to give rides home to a female bartender and her friend, the NYPD officer, Browne said.
"It is sad that it happened, but there is nothing anyone can do about it," said Moez Abouelmaca, lounge manager.
Queens prosecutors asked police not to interview the detective who fired the fatal shot, Browne said.
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