NYPD Officer Larry DePrimo became a household name last week after a photo of him giving boots to a barefoot homeless man on the street went viral. While grateful for the officer’s kindness, the barefoot homeless man says that he is barefoot once again.
The viral image was an inspiration, with Officer DePrimo making front pages and morning talk shows, the NYPD getting some good press and karma, and millions feeling a newly-restored faith in human kindness. Since that time, the press has taken interest in the homeless man in the picture, whose name is Jeffrey Hillman. On Sunday night, he was spotted wandering about the Upper West Side, barefoot once again.
The 54-year-old said that he was stunned and incredibly grateful for Officer DePrimo’s gift but says that he has hidden the $100 pair of boots because he is afraid for his life.
“Those shoes are hidden. They are worth a lot of money,” Hillman said. “I could lose my life.”
“I was put on YouTube, I was put on everything without permission. What do I get?” he said. “This went around the world, and I want a piece of the pie.”
“I appreciate what the officer did, don’t get me wrong,” Hillman said. “I wish there were more people like him in the world.”
He also expressed his gratitude to the public at large for the attention. “I want to thank everyone that got onto this thing. I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart. It meant a lot to me. And to the officer, first and foremost.”
Hillman seemed conflicted by the gift, and, while grateful, you can tell that he’s apprehensive about the fame and attention he has received. He is a former Army “food service specialist” and has two adult children with whom he is in limited contact. When asked about how his life got so off course, he stared blankly and replied “I don’t know,” reports the NY Times.
While he was being interviewed, several people noticed him, with one asking “What happened to the boots?”