(CBS) NEW YORK - A passenger said an unarmed Army National Guardsman driving on a New York City highway was fatally shot by police early Thursday, even though both his hands were on the wheel when the officers approached him, CBS New York reports.
Noel Polanco, 22, was shot around 5:15 a.m. on the Grand Central Parkway in Queens. His passenger, Diane Deferrari, said a bullet narrowly missed her when it fatally struck Polanco in the abdomen.
"The shot came right past my face and shot him," DeFerrari told CBS New York.
Deferrari said uniformed police officers pointed their guns through her window. The other passenger in the car, off-duty police officer Vanessa Rodriguez, was asleep in the back seat. She was awakened by the gunshot.
Deferrari said the officers were aggressive before pulling their car over near LaGuardia Airport.
"The police proceeded to try to chase us, sticking their middle finger at us and screaming obscenities at the car and trying to pull us over," DeFerrari said.
Police said Polanco was driving his 2012 Honda Fit erratically when he was pulled over and shot by a 39-year-old detective who has been on the force for 14 years. The detective fired one round, striking Polanco in the stomach and killing him.
Although Deferrari admitted that he was driving erratically, she said police shot Polanco almost immediately when he pulled over. Deferrari said she complied with an order to raise her hands, but the driver's hands remained on the wheel.
"And then they had us put our hands on the vehicle, telling us 'Your friend shot himself.' I looked at the police officers and I was in utter shock," DeFerrari said.
Polanco was coming from the Ice Lounge in Astoria, where he works at night. DeFerrari said Polanco had a few drinks at the bar before he got behind the wheel, but alcohol was not a factor that led to his death.
Instead, she insisted a case of road rage was taken to the extreme by police.
"He was shot intentionally ... All you had to do was pull him over, ask for license and registration and take him to jail. There was no reason for this innocent kid to be killed," DeFerrari said.
DeFerrari contended Polanco never reached for anything and had his hands on the steering wheel the whole time.
Polanco was unarmed and had just come back from basic training and was getting ready to be deployed as an Army Reservist. He did not have a criminal record and possessed no outstanding warrants. The police detective involved in the shooting will not be questioned until after the district attorney's investigation is complete.