On November 14, Jennifer Foster was visiting New York City from Arizona when she spotted NYPD officer Lawrence Deprimo giving a pair of new boots to a barefoot homeless man. The moment reminded her of a time when, as a young girl, she saw her father, a policeman in Phoenix, buy food for a homeless man.
"He squatted down, just like this officer," she told the New York Times.
She took a photo of the exchange and described it to the NYPD in an email. A department official wrote back asking for the picture so it could be posted to Facebook. Late Tuesday night, the picture went online and instantly went viral, garnering over 1.6 million views, 275,000 likes and 16,000 comments.
The officer, normally assigned to the Sixth Precinct in the West Village, readily recalled the encounter. "It was freezing out and you could see the blisters on the man's feet," he said in an interview. "I had two pairs of socks and I was still cold." They started talking; he found out the man's shoe size: 12.
As the man walked slowly down Seventh Avenue on his heels, Officer Deprimo went into a Skechers shoe store at about 9:30 p.m. "We were just kind of shocked," said Jose Cano, 28, a manager working at the store that night. "Most of us are New Yorkers and we just kind of pass by that kind of thing. Especially in this neighborhood."
Mr. Cano volunteered to give the officer his employee discount to bring down the regular $100 price of the all-weather boots to a little more than $75. The officer has kept the receipt in his vest since then, he said, "to remind me that sometimes people have it worse."
As for the homeless man, Deprimo never got his name, but said he was "the most polite gentlemen I had met," and noted that the man's face lit up when he saw the boots.