The New York Police Department officer who bought a pair of boots for a homeless man with no shoes in Times Square said he never imagined the act of kindness would go viral online.
“I was sitting at home eating dinner with my family when I first noticed. A friend brought it to my attention,” said Officer Lawrence DePrimo of Long Island, N.Y. said today on “Good Morning America.” “To look down at this gentleman’s feet and see that he had no socks. And when he told me he never had a pair of shoes. …My heart went out to him.”
A photo snapped by a passing tourist of DePrimo kneeling down on the street to give the man the shoes went viral online this week, amassing over 530,000 “likes” on Facebook and turning DePrimo into an Internet hero.
DePrimo said he did not know the tourist had taken the picture or that it would be posted online.
“I had no clue anybody was there,” DePrimo said, recalling the moment captured in the viral snapshot. “It was cold. I didn’t want him doing it himself so I just knelt down. I just helped him put on his socks and shoes.”
Tourist Jennifer Foster of Florence, Ariz., witnessed the generous act while visiting Times Square with her husband on the cold night of Nov. 14 and captured the moment on camera. Foster, the manager of the Pinal County Sheriff's public safety communications center, spotted a shoeless man asking for change when she saw a NYPD officer approach him.
"Right when I was about to approach, one of your officers came up behind him," Foster wrote in a message to the NYPD. "The officer said, 'I have these size 12 boots for you, they are all-weather. Let's put them on and take care of you.' The officer squatted down on the ground and proceeded to put socks and the new boots on this man."
"I have been in law enforcement for 17 years. I was never so impressed in my life. I did not get the officer's name," Foster continued in the note. "It is important, I think, for all of us to remember the real reason we are in this line of work. The reminder this officer gave to our profession in his presentation of human kindness has not been lost on myself or any of the Arizona law enforcement officials with whom this story has been shared."
The officer was later identified as DePrimo, who joined the NYPD in 2010 and lives with his parents on Long Island.
DePrimo found out that the man, whose name he does not know, wore a size 12 shoe. He went into a Skechers shoes store and bought the all-weather boots for $75.
“I ran ahead of him and I went into Skechers and I said, ‘Listen, I don’t care what it costs. This gentleman needs a pair of shoes.’ And they were able to help me out and I brought them back,” he explained.
DePrimo, who spoke first to the New York Times, told the paper that he has kept the receipt in his vest pocket "to remind me that sometimes people have it worse."
Today, he said the photo was something he’d cherish for the rest of his career.
The NYPD posted the Foster's photo and message on their official Facebook page on Tuesday evening and it was picked up by Reddit. Since then, the Facebook photo has been "liked" over 530,000 times and shared over 190,000 times.
While some of the thousands of comments on Facebook questioned whether the photo was stages, the comments were predominantly in praise of the officer.
One commenter wrote, "My eyes stung from the tears as I read this story - so awesome knowing there is still goodness in the world! May only good things come to this angel of an officer!"
"God Bless them both," another person wrote. "We have to take care of each other."
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