In one of the more heartwarming stories in a long time, a police officer working his counterterrorism post came across a barefooted homeless man. The officer, Lawrence DePrimo, disappeared for a short time only to return with a pair of boots. He knelt down and helped the man put on the boots, according to a story in the New York Times.
A photo of the act of kindness was taken on November 14 by a tourist from Arizona. The photo was posted on the New York Police Department’s Facebook page Tuesday night and by Wednesday night it was viewed over 1.6 million times.
Officer DePrimo joined the New York Police Department in 2010 and lives on Long Island with his parents. He is 25 and was not told about the photo before it was posted on the internet because the department did not figure out who the officer in the photo was until hours after it had been posted online.
“It was freezing out and you could see the blisters on the man’s feet,” Officer DePrimo said in an interview with the New York Times. “I had two pairs of socks and I was still cold.” DePrimo talked with the man and discovered that he was a size 12.
DePrimo entered a Skechers shoe store around 9:30 p.m. that night as the homeless man wandered down Seventh Avenue on his heels. “We were just kind of shocked,” said Jose Cano, a manager at the store on duty that night. “Most of us are New Yorkers and we just kind of pass by that kind of thing. Especially in this neighborhood.”
Cano offered DePrimo his employee discount to drop the price of the $100 boots to just about $75. Since that night, DePrimo has kept the receipt in his vest “to remind me that sometimes people have it worse.”
The tourist who took the photo has been identified as Jennifer Foster, who works as a civilian communications director at the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office in Arizona. Foster took the photo because it struck a memory in her of her father, who worked for 32 years as an office with the Phoenix Police Department. She said her father once bought a homeless man food.
“He squatted down, just like this officer,” she said.
Foster sent a description of the photo to the NYPD in an email but did not think it would be posted online since, “I’m not on Facebook,” she said. A spokesperson from the department asked for the photo from her so it could be posted on the internet.
DePrimo never learned the name of the man he helped but he said, “He was the most polite gentleman I had met.” DePrimo even offered to buy the man a cup of coffee, but “as soon as the boots were on him, he went on his way, and I just went back to my post.”