NEW YORK (Reuters) - A grand jury did not indict a New York police detective who fatally shot an unarmed U.S. Army reservist following a car chase near La Guardia airport last fall, authorities said Thursday.
Detective Hassan Hamdy shot Noel Polanco, 22, in the pre-dawn darkness on a Queens highway on October 4 after pulling over Polanco’s car for erratic driving. Police said Polanco cut in between two police trucks and declined to respond to orders to pull over.
The detective’s attorney has maintained Polanco ignored police orders to put his hands in the air and instead reached down with both hands to the car’s floorboard. No weapon was recovered from the car, police said.
A witness sitting next to Polanco in the front seat said Polanco’s hands never left the wheel as police approached the car with their guns drawn, yelling for the pair to put their hands up.
Diane DeFerrari, a bartender whom Polanco was driving home from a night shift, said the detective fired on Polanco without provocation, according to her attorney Sanford Rubenstein, who is also representing Polanco’s mother.
The sharply conflicting accounts had prompted New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly to call for a grand jury investigation into the shooting.
Polanco’s family was “extremely disappointed” by the grand jury’s decision, Rubenstein said.
“The family will in the near future meet with their advisers to determine the best way to move forward in their quest for justice,” Rubenstein said.
Hamdy was “extremely relieved” by the news, his attorney, Philip Karasyk, said Thursday. “No police officer ever wants to be faced with a life or death split-second decision. It stays with them forever.”
Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said the grand jury met on nine occasions over five weeks to deliberate.
Editing by Daniel Trotta and Cynthia Osterman