Ray Kelly: grand jury must eye fatal shooting by cop

New York Police officers and detectives investigate the New York Police officers and detectives investigate the scene along the Grand Central Parkway in Astoria, Queens adjacent to Laguardia Airport where a police officer shot and killed a motorist during a traffic stop. (Oct. 4, 2012) Photo Credit: Seth Gottfried

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NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly said Monday that a Queens grand jury will have to decide whether a detective from Long Island did anything wrong when he shot an unarmed 22-year-old Army National Guardsman during a traffic stop last week.

But a lawyer for Det. Hassan Hamdy of Centereach said he expected his client to be cleared of any criminal wrongdoing in the death of Noel Polanco.

"I'm very confident there won't be a true bill [indictment]," defense attorney Philip Karasyk told Newsday.

Karasyk maintained Hamdy, 39, fired the one shot that killed Polanco in self-defense because he believed the young man might have been reaching for a weapon when he suddenly moved his arms to the floor of the Honda he was driving. Hamdy is eager to testify to the grand jury and tell his version of events, the lawyer said.

Karasyk was responding to remarks made by Kelly Monday to reporters at the Columbus Day Parade in Manhattan. Kelly said police investigators haven't yet been able to talk with Hamdy because to do so now could confer immunity from prosecution.

"The investigation is going forward, but it appears to me a grand jury will have to be involved in this investigation," said Kelly.

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The Queens district attorney's office would have to present a case to a grand jury. The grand jury would decide whether there is sufficient evidence a crime was committed.

Polanco died shortly after a bullet fired by Hamdy struck him in the abdomen as he sat in his car, which had just been pulled over on the Grand Central Parkway by two unmarked emergency service vehicles. Police said Polanco had been driving erratically, weaving his vehicle between the police vans before he was pulled over by Exit 7. The unusual driving and Polanco's failure to raise his hands when he was twice told to do so by police raised Hamdy's defensive state of mind, said Karasyk.

"This is not a routine stop where a guy made a jerky movement," said Karasyk. "This is a stop where he [Polanco] almost hit a police van, speeding past them.

"When the cops got out they were all in ESU uniforms with vests," said Karasyk, adding that Polanco exacerbated things when he made a sudden movement with both hands to the floor board of the car."

A woman passenger in the front seat of the Honda said the last she saw, Polanco had both hands on the steering wheel.

Michael Palladino, head of the detectives union, also welcomed grand jury involvement and said it was to be expected in such a high-profile case.

Sanford Rubenstein, attorney for Polanco's family, said late Monday that a wake is planned for Wednesday and Thursday evenings at the Leo F. Kearns Funeral Home, 61-40 Woodhaven Blvd., Rego Park, Queens. Details on a Friday funeral were pending.

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