Tag Archives: Cecilia Reyes

Family of slain National Guardsman reaches $2.5 million settlement in suit against city


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Facebook

The family of slain National Guardsman Noel Polanco has reached a $2.5 million settlement in their wrongful death lawsuit against the city.

“While the family of Noel Polanco does not believe justice was done on the criminal side of our legal system certainly there was a measure of justice from the civil side of our legal system with the settlement of damages for wrongful death,” Sanford Rubenstein, the lawyer for Polanco’s family said.

The 22-year-old Army Reserve member was fatally shot by NYPD police officer Hassan Hamdy during a traffic stop on the Grand Central Parkway in October 2012.

Polanco was pulled over when he was seen driving erratically in his car, weaving between lanes and speeding on the highway before allegedly cutting off an unmarked police vehicle. Hamdy allegedly fired the single shot that killed Polanco when he told him to put his hands on the steering wheel and Polanco reached under the seat.

Last February, a Queens grand jury concluded that there would be no criminal charges filed in connection to the death of Polanco. By the end of the month, Polanco’s mother, Cecilia Reyes, announced a $20 million notice of claim to file a lawsuit against the city, NYPD and the officer who shot her son.

 

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Family of slain National Guardsman to file suit against city, NYPD


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Alexa Altman

Cecilia Reyes announced a $20 million notice of claim to file a lawsuit against the city, the NYPD and the officer who fatally shot her son, Noel Polanco.

On February 14, a Queens grand jury determined no criminal charges would be filed against Hassan Hamdy, the NYPD officer who shot the 22-year-old National Guardsman in October during a traffic stop on the Grand Central Parkway.

“I want him without a job,” Reyes told NY1. “I’m calling on the commissioner. I want this cop off the street. I don’t want to see him hurt anyone else.”

“The family feels they did not get justice in the state system of criminal justice,” said Sanford Rubenstein, the lawyer for Polanco’s family.

Along with the lawsuit, the family has requested that the U.S. Attorney’s office begin a criminal investigation based on federal civil rights violations.

“She [Reyes] wants this police officer to be held accountable and she doesn’t want another family to go through what her family is going through,” said Rubenstein.

 

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Mother of slain National Guardsman vows justice despite grand jury ruling


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Facebook

Even after the verdict was final, Cecilia Reyes vowed her son would get justice.

Reyes, the mother of Noel Polanco, the 22-year-old National Guardsman who was killed by a police officer during a traffic stop on the Grand Central Parkway on October 4, was outraged by the court’s ruling that her son’s killer would not be tried.

On February 14, after five weeks of deliberations, a Queens grand jury determined criminal charges would not be filed against Hassan Hamdy, the NYPD officer who fatally shot Polanco. In a statement, District Attorney Richard A. Brown indicated he would not provide the reason behind the grand jury’s decision and called Polanco’s death “a tragedy.”
Regardless of the ruling, Reyes remained determined to ensure her son, who aspired to become a police officer, did not die in vain.

Joined by Polanco’s sister Amanda, Reyes addressed the grand jury’s ruling at the National Action Network’s (NAN) Harlem headquarters on February 16. NAN founder the Rev. Al Sharpton gave the eulogy at Polanco’s funeral and has remained invested in the case.

“I’m very upset. I’m very, very angry at the justice system,” said Reyes. “I’m angry. I’m hurt. They didn’t do the justice that they needed to do for my son. But I’m not giving up. I’m continuing on and I’m going to fight with every being in my life.”

Polanco was pulled over when he was spotted driving erratically in his black 2012 Honda Fit, weaving between lanes and speeding on the Grand Central Parkway before allegedly cutting off an unmarked police vehicle. Hamdy allegedly fired the single shot that killed Polanco when he told him to put his hands on the steering wheel and Polanco reached under the seat. Testimony from two eye witnesses driving with Polanco, Diane DeFerrari, a bartender and Polanco’s neighbor, and Vanessa Rodriguez, an off-duty police officer, persisted with the claim that Polanco followed orders from the officer.

No weapon was discovered in Polanco’s car.

“My son had no weapon and yet the officer gets away with this,” said Reyes. “If it was to be someone else in the street, right away they would prosecute this kid – this officer was still a murderer, no matter what.”

According to reports, the family intends to pursue the case in civil court.

 

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Unarmed national guardsman killed by police is laid to rest


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Alexa Altman

“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.”

Mother of unarmed man killed by NYPD meets with Queens DA


| brennison@queenscourier.com

Screenshot via NY1

A day before burying her son killed by police during a traffic stop, Cecilia Reyes met today with the Queens district attorney.

Noel Polanco’s mother, along with her lawyer Sanford Rubenstein, met with DA Richard Brown for about a half hour today, according to reports, and was told the case will likely be heading to a grand jury.

“The district attorney this morning committed to a independent investigation,” Rubenstein said to reporters on the scene outside the Queens County Courthouse.

Reyes said she just wants the investigation handled correctly.

“All I want is justice,” she said. “I don’t want this to be repeated.”

Brown released a statement saying the “decisions in this case will be based solely on the facts and the law.”

Earlier this week Police Commissioner Ray Kelly also said he expected a grand jury investigation.

Polanco was fatally shot on the Grand Central Parkway last week after being pulled over for erratic driving. Reports said Polanco was shot after reaching below his seat. Diane DeFerrari, a passenger in the car, said his hands never left the wheel. No weapon was found in the car.

Ray Kelly calls for grand jury investigation into Polanco death


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

PHOTO COURTESY OF FACEBOOK

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly is requesting a grand jury investigation following last week’s fatal shooting of 22-year-old Army Reserve member Noel Polanco by a police officer.

According to the NYPD, on Thursday, October 4 around 5:15 a.m., officers in two unmarked vehicles spotted an eastbound, black 2012 Honda Fit hybrid driving erratically, weaving between lanes and speeding on the Grand Central Parkway. The car allegedly tailgated another vehicle before cutting between the unmarked police cars. The officers signaled for the Honda to pull over near the exit for LaGuardia Airport. Police approached the vehicle and fired a single round into Polanco’s abdomen. He was taken to New York Hospital Queens where he was pronounced dead at 5:50 a.m.

During the incident, two other passengers were inside the car: Diane DeFerrari, a bartender and Polanco’s neighbor, and Vanessa Rodriguez, an off-duty police officer. DeFerrari was sitting in the passenger’s seat during the incident and Rodriguez was allegedly asleep in the back seat.

According to DeFerrari’s attorney Sanford Rubenstein, Polanco complied with the officer’s request to keep his hands visible.

“There’s no question that she [DeFerrari] saw the driver with his hands on the wheel when he was shot,” said Rubenstein.

The police officer who allegedly fired the shot is Hassan Hamdy, who according to published reports was involved in a 2007 lawsuit for use of excessive force.

The district attorney released a statement, assuring the public that the event will be investigated in a “full, fair and complete” manner by the New York City Police Department’s Internal Affairs Division. The DA’s office declined any further comment.

Moez Abouelnaga, owner of Ice Lounge NYC in Astoria where Polanco worked as a hookah preparer, remembered his co-worker as a good-hearted, friendly person.

“He was a good kid,” said Abouelnaga. “Anything you asked him to do he would do it. He never asked for extra anything. He was very friendly. He got along with everyone.”

Polanco, who was known by the nickname “Sparxx,” graduated from Hillcrest High School in 2007 and was a member of the Army Reserve unit stationed in Kingston, New York. Reports say he had aspirations of joining the NYPD.

“He was a humble kid, just a humble guy,” said a friend. “He never started any problems. He never had issues. He was happy and social for someone who had just lost his grandfather and father.”

Polanco’s grandfather passed away in February and he lost his father in July, according to the friend.

On Tuesday, October 9, Senator Jose Peralta wrote a letter to the Police Commissioner on behalf of Polanco’s mother Cecilia Reyes. Peralta applauded Kelly’s push for a grand jury trial and added that full public disclosure of the facts is critical to ensure that justice is served.

Multiple attempts to reach Hamdy’s lawyer, Philip Karasyk, went unanswered as of press time.