During an early morning traffic stop, Detective Hassan Hamdy fired his gun at 22 year-old Noel Polanco, fatally wounding the unarmed member of the Army National Guard. According to Detective Hamdy, a 14-year veteran of the NYPD, he thought Polanco was reaching for a gun.
Detective Hamdy’s lawyer said in an interview on Saturday that Polanco did not comply with orders to put his hands up and instead reached, “down in a quick motion, down on the floor of the car.” Detective Hamdy, who was wearing a vest with the word “POLICE” emblazoned on the front claims he yelled “Police!” twice when approaching the vehicle and fired after Polanco reached down.
His lawyer says, “Had not for this person reaching down, lunging for the floor and not complying with orders to show his hands, we wouldn’t be here. All he had to do was show the officer his hands and this tragedy would not have occurred.”
Police say no weapon was found in the car, only a small power drill on the floor of the driver’s side.
Detective Hamdy’s account of events has been disputed by the front seat passenger in Polanco’s car, Diane Deferrari. She told investigators that Polanco had no time to comply with police orders. Deferrari says Polanco’s hands were still on the steering wheel when he was shot in the stomach. She’s calling the shooting police rage.
New details have also emerged about Detective Hamdy’s past with the police force. According to the New York Times, Detective Hamdy had been named as a defendant in separate claims of police abuse in a 2001 and 2008 federal civil rights lawsuit. One lawsuit accused officers of breaking down the door of a man’s home without a warrant before assaulting him.
Detective Hamdy also been credited as a hero; he rescued five people from a burning apartment building in May while executing a warrant in a neighboring building.
On Saturday morning, a distraught Cecilia Reyes, the mother of Noel Polanco, made a plea for investigators to delve deeper into the shooting of her son.
“I want answers,” Reyes said while being comforted by the Rev. Al Sharpton. “I want justice. I want no cover-up; I want answers,” she said.
Polanco was driving on the Grand Central Parkway around 5 a.m. on Thursday when he was pulled over by uniformed members of the NYPD who were riding in unmarked vans and claim that Polanco had cut them off twice. According to Detective Hamdy’s lawyer, the officers activated lights and sirens, but Polanco sped up and led police on a chase becoming a “danger to other motorists on the road.”
Deferrari says the officers boxed them in and came towards the car “like an army.” The second passenger, Vanessa Rodriguez, an off-duty police officer, was asleep in the backseat.
Toxicology reports showed no signs of drugs or alcohol in Detective Hamdy’s system during the time of the shooting.
On Saturday, Rev. Al Sharpton said that he supported the call for a full investigation. “This is about what is right and what is fair,” he said. “For unarmed innocent people to be killed is wrong, and it has got to stop.”
Cecilia Reyes told the crowd her son wanted to be a police officer. “We want to believe in the law,” she said.
Polanco’s family and friends have lit candles and placed bouquets of flowers at the base of a traffic light on the corner of 33rd Street and Broadway, making a memorial as they wait for more information.