By Tamer El-Ghobashy
A uniformed New York City police detective shot and killed an unarmed motorist in Queens after pulling over the 22-year-old driver for allegedly driving erratically during the pre-dawn hours Thursday, police said.
The episode unfolded at about 5:15 a.m. on the Grand Central Parkway near LaGuardia Airport, police said. The detective was among several Emergency Services Unit officers in two unmarked vans who were driving along the parkway en route to Brooklyn after executing an arrest warrant in the Bronx.
As the vans drove in the middle lane, a black Honda Fit cut them off twice and was seen tail-gating another vehicle, police said. One van full of officers positioned their vehicle in front of the Honda and slowed down, while the other van remained behind it a maneuver conducted to bring the Honda to a full stop, police said.
The detective, who was identified only as a 39-year-old detective with 14 years on the force, approached the Honda from the passenger side, while a second officer approached from the driver's side, police said. The passenger side window was ajar, police said, and the detective saw the driver allegedly reach under his seat. He fired a single shot, striking the motorist in the right side of his abdomen, police said.
The driver, identified by an official as Noel Polanco, died at New York Hospital Queens, police said.
Two women, one an off-duty officer, were inside the Honda and were unhurt. The backseat passenger, the officer, was apparently asleep during the incident and was awakened by the gunshot, police said.
The other passenger, a bartender at an Astoria nightclub where Polanco also worked, told police she had been concerned during the car ride because he had been driving too fast and asked him to slow down. She also told investigators that she had served Polanco drinks but it was not clear if he had been intoxicated, police said.
All three had been at the club, Ice Lounge, prior to the shooting episode, police said.
Police said a 4-volt Ryobi drill was recovered from underneath the driver's seat inside the Honda.
Police said the detective who fired the shot was treated at a hospital for tinnitus and released. He had not fired his weapon in the line of duty previously, officials said.