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Shoeless NYC homeless man speaks out

Posted By KATE STANTON, UPI.com   |   Dec. 3, 2012 at 12:00 PM   |   Comments

Dec. 3 (UPI) -- Less than a week after a tourist's photo of a New York City police officer's heartwarming act went viral on Facebook, the New York Times found Jeffrey Hillman, 54 years old and still shoeless.

In the original photo, taken by Arizona tourist Jennifer Foster, 25-year-old officer Lawrence DePrimo bends down to give the barefoot Hillman a brand new pair of Skechers boots, worth $100 from a nearby store. After Foster sent the photo to the NYPD, it became a social media sensation, garnering more than 600,000 likes and 47,000 comments.

But Hillman's story, as told to the New York Times, makes the original photo's message a little more bittersweet. Scared that owning an expensive item could put him in danger, Hillman, a 54-year-old veteran, has already stashed the boots.

“Those shoes are hidden. They are worth a lot of money,” Hillman said. “I could lose my life.”

Hillman also seemed disconcerted by the attention he had received.

“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.”

But Hillman still thanked DePrimo, "first and foremost," for his act of goodwill.

“I appreciate what the officer did, don’t get me wrong. I wish there were more people like him in the world,” Hillman 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."

Originally from New Jersey, Hillman has two children in their twenties, and an extended family he calls once a year, to let them know "he's OK," the New York Post reported.

© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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