New York Police Department officer Lawrence "Larry" DePrimo became a celebrity overnight after a photograph of him giving a new pair of boots to a barefoot homeless man was uploaded on Facebook and subsequently went viral.
The picture was reposted by the NYPD on its Facebook page, and it has since earned more than 533,000 likes and been shared more than 195,000 times.
"I didn't think anything of it." DePrimo said in his modest statement about the incident posted to YouTube by the Associated Press.
DePrimo said he first noticed the barefoot man when the officer heard someone laughing at him on a recent frigid night in Times Square in Manhattan. The officer said he was assigned to West 44th Street and Broadway.
“I went up to him and was like, ‘Where are your shoes?’” DePrimo said.
“I’ve never had a pair of shoes," the NYPD officer said the man replied. "But God bless you and thank you for doing what you’re doing,”
DePrimo said he himself was wearing two pairs of socks and combat boots, and his feet were still cold. The officer took action by going to a nearby Skechers shoe store, where he purchased a pair of socks and a pair of all-weather boots.
Because of the officer’s selfless act of kindness toward a stranger, he has been praised online and in local New York publications. BuzzFeed went so far as to refer to DePrimo as “The Most Beloved Police Officer in New York City.”
The photo was taken by tourist Jennifer Foster of Florence, Ariz., on Nov. 14 at about 9:30 p.m. EST. She said she was approaching the man when she saw DePrimo appear on the scene.
"Right when I was about to approach, one of your officers came up behind him. The officer said, 'I have these size 12 boots for you; they are all-weather,” Foster said in a note attached to the image she posted on the NYPD Facebook page. “’Let's put them on and take care of you.' 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."
Foster added: "I have been in law enforcement for 17 years. I was never so impressed in my life. I did not get the officer's name. It is important, I think, for all of us to remember the real reason we are in this line of work. The reminder this officer gave to our profession in 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."
DePrimo, 25, who resides on New York's Long Island and is usually assigned to the Sixth Precinct in Manhattan's West Village, joined the police department in 2010. The New York Times reported the officer was unaware that the picture was posted online, and the NYPD didn’t know who the officer in it was until hours after its posting.
“We were just kind of shocked,” said Jose Cano, 28, the manager of the Skechers store where the police officer bought the boots that night. “Most of us are New Yorkers, and we just kind of pass by that kind of thing, especially in this neighborhood.”
Cano also acted generously that night, by giving DePrimo access to his employee discount. The boots originally cost $100, but, with the manger’s help, the generous policeman paid about $75 to help a stranger keep his feet warm.