Last week, Jeffrey Hillman made headlines for being given a pair of boots by NYPD Officer DePrimo.The photograph, which we featured in a news segment at the time, tells a tragic and endearing story – that of a man forced to wander the streets barefoot, in freezing NY November weather.
Hillman was identified by his brother after the picture of the officer kneeling to give him the boots circled the globe.
The random act of kindness by an officer who was still on duty blew up the department's Facebook account, which registered more than 1.6 million views and 300,000 likes.
“It was freezing out and you could see the blisters on the man’s feet. [...] I had two pairs of socks and I was still cold,” the officer said, explaining his gesture.
DePrimo spent $75 (€57) on the boots, but the man he helped is not wearing them anymore. As we wrote yesterday, reporters caught up to him as he was walking around NY, barefoot.
He is grateful for the gift, but believes it puts him in danger.
“Those shoes are hidden. They are worth a lot of money. [...] I could lose my life,” Mr. Hillman explains.
Hillman’s brother, Kirk tells the NY Daily News that the homeless man has a family. He has a son and a daughter, Nikita, 22, and Jeffrey, 24, and he is from Nazareth, Pennsylvania.
He is now 54 years old, and started service in the Army in 1978. His position was that of a “food service specialist,” having been honorably discharged in five years' time.
Asked by reporters why he doesn't let his brother back into their lives, Kirk Hillman discretely puts it that they don't agree with the way he lives his life.
“Our door is always open to him, but this is a lifestyle he’s chosen,” he says.