A barefoot homeless man who received boots from an NYPD officer last month has refused to wear them, citing safety concerns.
54-year-old Jeffrey Hillman told the New York Times that “those shoes are hidden. They are worth a lot of money. I could lose my life.” Hillman claims the hubbub over Officer Lawrence DePrimo’s kind act, photographed by an Arizona woman on November 14th, took him by surprise.
“I was put on Youtube,” Hillman said. “I was put on everything without permission. What do I get? This went around the world, and I want a piece of the pie.” While he seems to want compensation for the publicity it garnered, Hillman says he is thankful to Officer DePrimo for his kind act.
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“I appreciate what the officer did, don’t get me wrong,” he said. “I wish there were more people like him in the world.” This revelation comes as new details about Hillman have become public. According to the Times, he’s a South Plainfield, N.J., native who served as a food service specialist in the U.S. Army during the late 1970s. Hillman showed identification supporting this claim.
Hillman received an honorable discharge in 1983, working in different kitchens across New Jersey prior to becoming homeless. He is also a father to two grown children: Nikita, 22; and Jeffrey, 24, but has had little contact with them. When pressed, he was hesitant about revealing what let to his homelessness, eventually saying, “I don’t know.”
He did admit that he came to the city 10 years ago and has been on the streets since then. His family members say he has a home with them.
“We love our brother very much,” Kirk, Hillman’s brother, told the Daily News Sunday. “Our door is always open to him, but this is a lifestyle he’s chosen.”