Detective Hassan Hamdy shot Noel Polanco on Oct. 4 on the Grand Central Parkway near LaGuardia Airport. Polanco, 22, had been weaving in and out of traffic after a night of drinking and initially resisted police efforts to pull him over, authorities said.
Hamdy fired his gun after he saw Polanco reaching under his seat with both hands, his lawyer said.
But passenger Diane Deferrari said there was nothing to provoke police to fire. She said officers yelled obscenities before pulling over their car and pointed their guns through her open window. She said the bullet that struck Polanco in the abdomen narrowly missed her.
Deferrari said one of the officers told her: "Your friend shot himself."
An off-duty police officer, Vanessa Rodriguez, was asleep in the back seat and was awakened by the gunshot.
Deferrari said she complied with an order to raise her hands but Polanco's hands remained on the steering wheel.
The shooting prompted an investigation by the Queens district attorney's office. District Attorney Richard Brown said the office conducted a thorough probe and presented all the evidence to the grand jury.
"We interviewed all witnesses to that which occurred and examined all available documentary evidence," Brown said. "Mr. Polanco's death remains a tragedy, and I again express my sympathy to his family for their loss."
Hamdy could still face departmental charges following an internal review.
Polanco's relatives were extremely disappointed by the grand jury news, family attorney Sanford Rubenstein said. They will meet in the near future with their advisers to determine the best way to move forward "in their quest for justice," he said.
Polanco was honored with a posthumous promotion at his funeral. The portrait that emerged during the two-hour service Oct. 12 was of a loving son and brother who worked several jobs, performed weekend National Guard service and joined a club for car enthusiasts called Center of Attention.
Get Eyewitness News Delivered