A passenger said nothing was done to provoke police to fatally shoot the specialist in the Army National Guard driving on a New York City highway on Thursday.
Diane Deferrari of Queens said the bullet that struck and killed driver Noel Polanco narrowly missed her and that uniformed officers pointed their guns through her open window after they pulled the vehicle over near LaGuardia Airport. Deferrari said one of the officers told her, “Your friend shot himself.”
An off-duty police officer, Vanessa Rodriguez, was asleep in the back seat. She was awakened by the gunshot.
It’s unclear what prompted the Detective Hassam Hamby, a 14-year veteran, to shoot. He is a member of the elite Emergency Services Unit and has been assigned to desk duty, which is standard practice following a police-involved shooting.
“ESU officers receive twice as much training as a regular police officer,” said Paul Browne, the NYPD’s chief spokesman. Only about 450 out of the 34, 500-strong force are placed in the unit.
The Queens District Attorney and NYPD Internal Affairs are investigating the shooting.
Last month, an officer shot and killed an unarmed bodega worker in what police described as an accident when the man collided with the responding officer.
“I’m seeing more of a cluster of police shootings happening in a tighter time frame than we’ve seen over the years”, said Edward Mullins, president of the Sergeant’s Benevolent Association. “But in my 30 years in the NYPD, I haven’t met one officer who came to work with the intention of being involved in a shooting to where there was no weapon and someone dies.”
Polcano had been a member of the 1156th Engineer Company of the New York Army National Guard since 2008.
Captain Daniel Columb, his company commander, said “he was a good soldier who was well liked in his unit.”
With the Associated Press