NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Many questions remain unanswered following a fatal police-involved shooting on the Grand Central Parkway in Queens on Thursday morning.
The incident occurred at about 5:15 a.m. near Exit 7 at LaGuardia Airport. The man killed was identified by friends and family as Army National Guard reservist Noel Polanco.
Thursday night, one of the women who was in the car with Polanco admitted that he was driving erratically, but said when he pulled over, police shot him almost immediately.
“The shot came right past my face and shot him,” Diana DeFerrari, who was sitting in the passenger’s seat, told CBS 2’s Jessica Schneider.
Police said Polanco, 22, was driving his 2012 Honda Fit erratically when he was pulled over and shot by a 39-year-old detective who has been on the force for 14 years. That detective fired one round, striking Polanco in the stomach and killing him.
1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg reports
What led to the shooting is starting to come into focus.
As two unmarked Emergency Service Unit Apprehension Team vans were heading eastbound in the center lane, the vehicle being driven by Polanco cut in between the vehicles and then started tailgating another car, according to police.
When Polanco cut in between the ESU vans a second time, the officers pulled him over with one ESU van pulling in front and the second pulling up behind him, according to police.
WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond with reaction from Polanco’s uncle
That’s when a sergeant and a detective, who were both in uniform, got out and walked up to Polanco’s car. Two women, including DeFerrari, were also inside the car.
“And then they had us put our hands on the vehicle, telling us ‘Your friend shot himself.’ I looked at the police officers and I was in utter shock,” DeFerrari said.
DeFerrari and the other woman, an off-duty officer, were questioned Thursday. The off-duty officer was asleep at the time of the shooting, WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond reported.
“The police proceeded to try to chase us, sticking their middle finger at us and screaming obscenities at the car and trying to pull us over,” DeFerrari said.
With no police logos and no sirens blaring, DeFerrari said she had no idea they were cops.
“I honestly thought it was an armored car and security for an armored car. At no time did they specify police,” DeFerrari said.
DeFerrari said the flashing lights were on, but the sirens weren’t. Seconds later, she said, at least eight officers rushed to the car with guns drawn and even rifles out before one fatal shot was fired.
“They did say simultaneously with the fire, ‘Put your hands up!’ There was no time to put your hands up at all,” she said.
Polanco was coming from the Ice Lounge in Astoria, where he works at night. DeFerrari said even though Polanco had a few drinks at the bar before he got behind the wheel, alcohol was not a factor.
Instead, she insisted a case of road rage was taken to the extreme by police.
“He was shot intentionally…All you had to do was pull him over, ask for license and registration and take him to jail. There was no reason for this innocent kid to be killed,” DeFerrari said.
DeFerrari contended Polanco never reached for anything and had his hands on the steering wheel the whole time.
Polanco was unarmed and had just come back from basic training and was getting ready to be deployed as an Army Reservist.
Co-workers at Paragon Honda, where Polanco worked as a car detailer, said it just doesn’t make sense. They described Polanco as a hard worker who was dedicated to his job and his service in the Army.
Polanco’s uncle said he cannot believe his nephew is dead.
“He’s not like that. The first thing he would do was lower the window because his windows were tinted,” Mike Almo told WCBS 880’s Diamond. “I know for sure the first thing would have been that — he would have lowered a window. He probably went to reach the car, to put it in park and the cop probably saw something different.”
“He never carries a gun, he’s a military guy — he was leaving in two weeks again and he’s about to go active again,” one of Polanco’s friends told 1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg. “There’s no negative on this kid.”
“The kid just came home from war. He didn’t die at war but he died by the police,” Almo told WCBS 880’s Diamond.
Polanco did not have a criminal record and had no outstanding warrants. The police detective involved in the shooting will not be questioned until after the district attorney’s investigation is complete.
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