12/07/2012 12:55 pm ET Updated Dec 07, 2012

Jeffrey Hillman, New York City Barefoot Man Who Got Boots From NYPD Cop, Now Wearing Flip-Flops

The barefoot man who catapulted to Internet fame after a kind cop gave him a pair of expensive boots is now trotting around New York City’s frigid streets in flip-flops.

The media has been swarming Jeffrey Hillman, 54, ever since an inspired tourist took a photo of Officer Larry DePrimo fitting the shoeless man in a pair of socks and boots. But since the heartwarming picture went viral, Hillman has told outlets that he’s too afraid to sport the valuable footwear.

When Inside Edition caught up with the Army vet, reporters found him panhandling in front of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, wearing flip-flops on a 32-degree night.

"When the (blank) hit the fan, I got rid of [the boots] because they're worth money. I didn't want nobody taking them," Hillman told Inside Edition. "To me that was the smartest thing to do, you what I'm saying? Because, why would I jeopardize my well being, my safety over a pair of lousy boots?"

Though Hillman is too anxious to wear the insulated boots DePrimo bought him, at least he’s now wearing some protection on his blistered feet.

Earlier this week, a New York Times reporter found Hillman walking around the streets barefoot, again.

The vet, who has an apartment in the Bronx, told the paper a similar story. He said he hid the boots because "they are worth a lot of money” and that he wants "a piece of the pie" from the viral photo.

While Hillman feels left out of the hoopla and is too nervous to wear the cozy boots he got for free, he still feels optimistic about his situation.

"I love my life," he told Inside Edition.



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