Unarmed national guardsman killed by police is laid to rest

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Noel Polanco, who was fatally shot by police during a traffic stop, was laid to rest at a funeral on Friday, October 12.THE COURIER/Photo by Alexa Altman
Noel Polanco, who was fatally shot by police during a traffic stop, was laid to rest at a funeral on Friday, October 12.

“We just want justice,” whispered a cousin of Noel Polanco’s during his funeral service. “That’s it. Justice.”

Hundreds of friends and family members filled the Eternal Love Baptist Church in Corona on Friday morning to bid a final goodbye to Noel Polanco, the 22-year-old national guardsman, killed by a police officer during a traffic stop on the Grand Central Parkway on October 4.

Melvin Morgan, who works with the victim’s mother at Elmhurst Hospital, stood outside the church before the service holding a sign that read “Stop police brutality now.” Morgan lamented the upswing in police involved shootings in the city where innocent lives were lost.

“Every week, there’s a police involved shooting,” said Morgan. “It needs to stop. We’re tired of it – [Polanco] was a very nice gentleman. He was very humble, very honest and everyone in the neighborhood loved him.”

Escorted by eulogist Reverend Al Sharpton, Polanco’s mother, Cecilia Reyes, clutched the civil rights figure as they led the funeral procession into the church.

Throughout the service, friends recalled moments spent with Polanco, fixing up cars and sketching tattoo designs. Polanco belonged to the “Center of Attention” car club and worked four jobs to pay for a new Honda Fit Hybrid. When friends called Polanco, needing a ride at 4 a.m., he came through, never asking for anything in return.

Army officers spoke of Polanco’s dedication and eagerness to assist others – particularly families’ whose homes were damaged during Hurricane Irene.

“He was a proactive young man, easy for a smile, respectful, ready to work and always willing to do what was asked of him,” said Lieutenant Colonel James Freehart, Polanco’s battalion commander.

During the service, Polanco was posthumously promoted from specialist to sergeant.

Sharpton delivered the eulogy, emphasizing the need for resolution and fairness as investigation into the case progresses.

“As we celebrate the homecoming of Noel, it is time for the city to deal with the issue of justice,” said Sharpton. “You’ve taken her baby. Can you at least give her some justice?”

Just a day after meeting with the Queens district attorney, Reyes spoke of her son’s kind heart and strong spirit.

“I will always miss him and I’m never going to see him again,” said Reyes. “But, I know we will be together again.”