It's like a movie - looks like the city of New York and the rest of the country has fallen in love with NYPD Officer Larry DePrimo. I can't find the article online, but I read in the Post that he'd also done two stints in New Orleans with Habitat for Humanity after Hurricane Katrina. From the New York Daily News:
His Long Island neighbors said they were shocked to learn DePrimo was the center of national attention — but not at all surprised by his generosity.
“The whole family is very respectful, very nice people,” said one neighbor. “I hope my kids grow up to be like that.”
David Croce, the hero’s uncle, said DePrimo learned his kindness from his grandfather who died in June.
“It’s typically what we would do,” Croce said of his nephew’s actions. “As a family, we cherish that.”
Meanwhile, sources unmasked the homeless man as 54-year-old Jeffery Hillman, a petty criminal who has been arrested nearly a dozen times since 1983. Most of his 11 collars are for drug possession, but others include criminal mischief and public lewdness.
A police source said Hillman is often seen strolling barefoot in the area and suspect it’s part of a scam to squeeze donations from tourists. Hillman, who last lived in a Harlem YMCA in April, could not be reached Friday for comment.
Mayor Bloomberg applauded DePrimo’s act of kindness, but said it was simply another example of what NYPD officers quietly do on a regular basis.
“The truth of the matter is cops every day do things that help people. That’s what they’re there for,” Bloomberg said on his weekly WOR radio show. “I can’t tell you that everyone always stops, but a lot of them do.”
The young cop, who is normally assigned to the Sixth Precinct in Greenwich Village, was manning a post at W. 44th St. and Broadway when he spotted Hillman with no shoes.
He asked the man if he had anything to put on his feet.
“It’s okay, sir, I’ve never had a pair of shoes,” the man replied. “But God bless you.”
Hillman walked away, but DePrimo caught up to him near a Skechers store and bought a pair of $100 boots. A store manager used an employee discount to slice the price in half.
Both of my kids live downtown in large cities. I always tell them not to think too hard about helping people on the street -- that if you have the impulse to be generous, do it. Yeah, maybe they'll spend that money on a vial of crack or a bottle of MD20-20 -- but maybe they'll buy a sandwich instead and be one day closer to the day they go to a shelter and seek help. You never know.
So even if this barefoot guy might be a scam artist, so what? Officer DePrimo did the right thing.