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article imageHomeless man given boots by NYPD identified, and barefoot again

By Leigh Goessl     Dec 3, 2012 in World
New York - Last week an image posted on Facebook that showed a NYPD officer giving a homeless man a pair of boots went viral. In the days following, little information was known about the recipient of the boots. He has now been identified.
New York Police Officer Larry DePrimo had given a shoeless man a gift of boots on Nov. 14. A quiet generous gesture, the moment was unknowingly captured by a tourist and a photo was posted on the NYPD Facebook page. Media reports have now surfaced the man has been identified and is no longer wearing the boots.
After the photo was shared, the image quickly went viral. The officer was eventually identified, but not much information was reported on the man who the 25-year-old officer had given boots to.
The Huffington Post reported the man has been identified and is no longer wearing the $100 boots.
According to Huffington Post, the New York Times located the man and identified him as Jeffrey Hillman. The NYT also learned the man is walking around barefoot again, but has placed the shoes in a "safe place".
“Those shoes are hidden. They are worth a lot of money,” Mr. Hillman said in an interview on Broadway in the 70s, reported The Times, “I could lose my life.”
Hillman, 54, says he is grateful for the officer's gift; however he is conflicted about his image being plastered all over the web. He indicated he had no idea his photo was even taken, but very well remembers Officer DePrimo's gift.
“I appreciate what the officer did, don’t get me wrong,” Hillman told the paper. “I wish there were more people like him in the world.”
“I was put on YouTube, I was put on everything without permission. What do I get?” he added. “This went around the world, and I want a piece of the pie.”
However, during the interview with The Times, he also said, “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.”
A former Army member, Hillman told The Times he joined the military in 1978 and five years until he was discharged honorably from service; the paper was able to verify this information through a veteran's ID card produced by Hillman. Other information he shared was that he was originally from New Jersey and has two adult children that he has little contact with in recent years.
He was reportedly "reluctant" to share his story of how he ended up homeless, stating "I don't know".
According to the New York Post, Hillman's family was "shocked" to learn the shoeless man whose image was widely shared was their family member. His brother, Kirk, and his wife, Tish, say they hear from Jeffery about once a year.
“The last time we heard from him was maybe a year ago on New Year’s Day,” said Tish Hillman, who lives with Kirk in Allentown, Pa.
For more Digital Journal coverage on this story:
Photo of NYPD officer giving boots to homeless man goes viral
Video: NYPD Officer DePrimo speaks out on homeless man picture
More about jeffrey hillman, Nypd officer, Homeless man, NYPD Officer DePrimo, Larry DePrimo
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