NEW YORK — A tourist's snapshot of a New York City police officer giving new boots to a barefoot homeless man in Times Square has created an online sensation.
Jennifer Foster, of Florence, Ariz., was visiting New York with her boyfriend on Nov. 14, when she came across the shoeless man asking for change in Times Square.
As she was about to approach him, she said the officer – identified as Larry DePrimo – came up to the man with a pair of all-weather boots and thermal socks on the frigid night. She recorded his generosity on her cellphone.
DePrimo, speaking to reporters on Thursday, remembered the night clearly, that even with two pairs of socks on, his feet were freezing.
The homeless man "didn't even have a pair of socks on and I could only imagine how cold that pavement was," the 25-year-old said, clutching a box containing cufflinks given to him by Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly.
Foster's photo was posted Tuesday night to the NYPD's official Facebook page and became an instant hit. More than 420,000 users "liked" it as of Thursday evening, and more than 140,000 shared it.
Thousands of people commented, including one person who praised him as "An officer AND a Gentleman."
The photo shows the officer kneeling beside the man with the boots at his feet. A shoe store is seen in the background.
"I have these size 12 boots for you, they are all-weather. Let's put them on and take care of you," Foster quoted DePrimo as saying to the man.
She wrote: "The officer squatted down on the ground and proceeded to put socks and the new boots on this man. The officer expected NOTHING in return and did not know I was watching."
DePrimo said buying the boots "was something I had to do." He tried to persuade the man to get something to eat, but he declined and left.
"When I brought out the shoes, it was just a smile from ear to ear," he said. "It was a great moment for both of us."
DePrimo said he only told his family about the incident at the time, and was surprised when a friend told him the photo was posted on the Internet some time later.
Foster, who is a dispatch manager at the Pinal County Sheriff's Office, said she's worked in law enforcement for 17 years and has never been more impressed.
"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," Foster wrote on Facebook. She said she never got the officer's name.
DePrimo said he has been on the NYPD for 2 1/2 years. He is assigned to the Sixth Precinct, encompassing Greenwich Village and the West Village, and lives on Long Island with his parents.
He said he keeps the receipt from the boots in his bullet-proof vest, as a reminder that even when things are tough, some people have it tougher.
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