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Unarmed man shot dead by police in NYC

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An unarmed man was shot and killed by a New York police detective early Thursday after the man had been pulled over by two police cars in Queens, N.Y., authorities said. 

Noel Polanco, 22, was on his way home to Corona, N.Y., from his job at the Ice Lounge in Astoria Thursday morning when he was shot at about 5:15 a.m. He had offered a ride to a colleague, bartender Diana Deferrari, and another woman, who was an off-duty police officer, according to law enforcement sources. All three lived in the same part of Queens. 

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Noel Polanco, 22, was shot and killed by an NYPD officer after he was pulled over early Thursday morning.

As they headed home on the Grand Central Parkway near LaGuardia Airport, Polanco was pulled over after cutting off what turned out to be an unmarked police van. 

When Polanco stopped the car, a detective approached the vehicle and asked him to show his hands, according to police. 

Police said Polanco reached under his seat and appeared to grab for a yellow electric power drill with a black handle.

That's when the detective, Hassan Hamdy, 39, a 14-year veteran assigned to the Emergency Service Unit, fired a single shot through the passenger-side window and hit Polanco in the stomach. He was taken to New York Hospital Queens, where he was pronounced dead less than an hour later.

Passenger claims incident was police 'road rage'
Sources said the detective may have thought Polanco was reaching for a gun. But Deferrari, who was sitting in the front passenger seat, said his hands were on the steering wheel "at all times" and that the officers were angry when they pulled him over. 

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"This was an act of road rage by the police because my friend cut him off, cut off the police," she told reporters Thursday. "The police proceeded to chase us, sticking their middle finger at us and screaming obscenities at the car."

No gun was recovered from the car.

The off-duty police officer in the car, who was in the backseat, told investigators she was asleep when the shooting happened.

Polanco's mother, Cecelia Reyes, said she demands justice for her son. 

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"They're just gonna take my son like that ... like he's some kind of criminal ... 22 years old, never got in trouble. I want justice for my son," sobbed Reyes. "I'm not gonna let his memory stay like this. He was not a bad kid."

Polanco served in the U.S. Army for four years, enlisting in April 2008. He was assigned to the 1156th Engineer Company headquartered in Kingston, N.Y.

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"He actually joined the Army because he wanted to be a cop," said Noel De La Rosa, a friend of Polanco. "He said, 'Why don't I do this for a couple of years, and then I'll join the force.'"

Another friend, Tito Cordero, said Polanco returned from a tour awhile back and in addition to bartending, had been working at a Honda dealership detailing cars. 

"He worked hard, two, three jobs," said Cordero. "He was a quiet, good kid. There's no aggressiveness in this kid." 

Reyes said her son wanted to become a police officer after serving in the National Guard. She says she plans to hire an investigator to review the case.

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Series of fatal NYPD shootings
The shooting Thursday is the latest in a series of fatal shootings by police officers in New York.

In August, New York police officers shot and killed a 51-year-old man wielding a kitchen knife in touristy Times Square. Following the incident, police said the man lunged at them.

Also in August, two officers shot and killed an armed man who had just killed a former co-worker outside the Empire State Building. During the incident, nine bystanders were injured by ricocheting bullets from officers' gunfire. 

NBC News staff contributed to this report

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