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.