November 29th, 2012
11:40 AM ET

New York cop's act of kindness goes viral

[Updated at 8:45 a.m. ET Friday] Here's how a simple act of kindness can become a worldwide inspiration and a public relations bonanza for the New York Police Department.

In a case of being in the right place at the right time, a tourist from Arizona, who happens to work in law enforcement herself, was visiting New York City earlier this month when she noticed a man without shoes asking for change near Times Square.

Jennifer Foster, of Florence, Arizona, sent the following note, along with a picture she took, to the NYPD, which posted it on its Facebook page.

"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. 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. 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."

That Facebook post has gone viral since it went up Tuesday, with more than 77,000 shares, 322,000 likes and 20,000 comments. Most of those comments, which come from places as far away as Australia and Malaysia, praise the officer for his simple act.

"Angels are everywhere, we just have to see!!!" Helen Hoglund wrote.

"Way to go cop ... God bless," posted Jonathan Brown.

"This action gives me a warm feeling, even here in The Netherlands," said Elbert Donker.

Some of the praise didn't come without digs at New York and its finest.

"I wish more people were like this. This is in NY and would be the last place I would see this type of kindness," Teri Pizzurro wrote.

"It's the first time a policeman made me cry tears of joy. And I think that's true for a lot of us," commented Lola Lloyd.

"I really dont like cops ive been in the situation of being searched and arrested for spitting on the sidewalk but this guy gets some respect from me," said a post from Gavin Roman.

On Thursday, the police officer's identity was revealed: He's Larry DePrimo, 25.

The two-year veteran of the department explained he was on patrol in Times Square on the frigid night of November 14 when he came across a man in bare feet with "blisters ... about the size of my hands."

"My heart went out to this man," DePrimo told CNN. "I just went toward him and asked him if he wanted a pair of socks. But he said, 'No, and God bless you for asking.' "

The officer said he had one word to describe the man's gracious words: "inspiring."

Inspired himself, DePrimo headed to a nearby Skechers' store and after asking the man his shoe size bought winter boots. The store's staff figured out was going on and gave DePrimo an employee discount to help "make the best out of the situation," said assistant manager Jose Cano.

When DePrimo gave away the boots, the man thanked him with a "smile (that) went from ear to ear."

"And again, he said God bless me. And he said be safe."

Still, because this is New York, there were some who consider the officer a victim, taken in by another scam.

"Clever stunt! The (man) is 'parked' at the entrance of a shoe shop. He got like 10 pairs that day," commented Louis Zehmke.

"This guy is only barefoot as a begging strategy," wrote David Levy. "I've been seeing him around midtown for years. I've even witnessed someone buy him slippers in a freezing day which he promptly put in his shopping cart."

Don't tell that to DePrimo. He carries around the Skechers' receipt in his bulletproof vest as a reminder of the people that he and fellow officers serve.

While the officer admits being taken aback by the generally positive reaction to his gesture, DePrimo said he hopes it inspires others to help strangers in need.

"If it pushes somebody else to go out and do another kind act toward another person, then I am going to sleep well tonight."

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Filed under: Facebook • New York • Social media • Times Square
soundoff (295 Responses)
  1. Eerye

    regardless of the motives of the person who was barefoot, at the end of the day, all of us are responsible for our own actions. period. If i see a person who is hungry, i should feed them. If i have money and i give it to someone because i am kind, then i have a done a good deed. If he takes the money and does wrong with it, it is on him. He is responsible for his own actions. We have to start somewhere, some time. How sad is it that we assume the beggar was not real or whatever? I have to do the good that i can do, how on earth can i hope for a better world for my kids if i am not even willing to step up myself? How else can i share the love i have been shown by my Lord, if i don't share what i have been given? If i have been shown kindness and compassion, shouldn't i pass this on? and not expect anything in return? It starts with me, or you. or them.

    November 29, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  2. love_guru

    Angel? This cop is no angel. He actually reminds me of someone who washed his disciples' feet!

    The copy could have just handed over the shopping bag to the guy with the shoes and socks in it. But no, he went ahead and put on the socks and shoes on the homeless man's feet.

    Just as the same, the other someone who was reminded me of could have just passed down a bowl of water and let the disciples wash their own feet. But no, he washed those stinky feet pair after pair.

    November 29, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Fritz Colburn

      "The copy could have just handed over the shopping bag to the guy with the shoes and socks in it. But no, he went ahead and put on the socks and shoes on the homeless man's feet."

      Glad I wasn't the only one to take note of that fact as well.

      November 29, 2012 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
  3. gk84

    maybe he was a scammer, maybe he was not. Does it really matter? As long as you do a good deed , it make a difference. If that guy just took off his shoes for begging purposes,and plp keep giving him shoes, one day he might wake up and realize that what he is doing is wrong. As long as you do good, thats all that matters.

    November 29, 2012 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Andrea

    Grande persona, cosi si può fare la differenza.

    November 29, 2012 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Huh

    The act was wonderful. Don't be so cynical. So what if this is the vagrants scam. Kindness benefits the giver not the recipient

    November 29, 2012 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Michael

      Exactly right sir (or Madam) it is easy to be cynical, it takes a person of humility and unconditionality to perform an act of kindness. Love, true love does not depend on who the giver or recipient is, we give to each other because we feel good to do so, simple, uncomplicated.

      November 29, 2012 at 9:15 pm | Report abuse |
  6. SLM

    It does not matter if the beggar was running a scam, the spiritual benefit accrues to the police office simply through his selfless act of gratitude. Cynicism is easy, cheap, and discreditable.

    November 29, 2012 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Maggie

    I have been to New York many times. Seems to me some of you are not visiting the same city as I did. I found that most New Yorkers will stand in the pouring rain to give directions to a tourist. Don't judge what this police officer did as him being scammed. He did an act of kindness - 'Nuf said!

    November 29, 2012 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tony

      Greetings from Hong Kong. I have never really understood comments that seem quite critical of New Yorkers, and New York cops. I had visited NYC several times and is planning another trip there in December. I have nothing but good things to say about New Yorkers. They are polite and courteous and helpful. I agree with Maggie completely. If you are a kind person yourself, you will appreciate all the good things in other people. This cop is an inspiration.

      November 30, 2012 at 3:34 am | Report abuse |
  8. Barry G.

    Jesus said: Whatever you do for the least of my brothers or sisters, you have done for me.

    Jeusus also said: Anyone who gives even a cup of cold water in my name, will certainly not go unrewarded.

    Its good to know that there are still some good people in the world.

    November 29, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Fernando

      quit with the religiois quotes it was a good person doing a good thing and thats it, it wasn't the invisibel man in the sky.

      November 29, 2012 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fritz Colburn

      Fernando quit with the atheistic hate speech. He has a right to his opinion. Leaving theology out of it Jesus was at the very least a very wise man and spoke many words that we should live by today. With or without religion. Sick and tired of Atheists like you who demand that your rights to not worship a God not be trampled while trampling the rights of other TO worship a God.

      It makes Atheists like my look bad and want to punch you in the throat to get you to shut up.

      November 29, 2012 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
  9. DcLo

    I was taught by a Rabbi that you should give and not worry about the person asking, if they are scamming or not. If they are it is their sin, Our obligation is to give; not to the point of being in need ourselves. Also, he said, the Messiah sits at the gates of Jerusalem, wrapping and re-wrapping his bandages. So, you never know who you are helping... Lastly, when I was in NYC as a tourist I was struck over and over again how nice people were...contrary to myth.

    November 29, 2012 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Maree

    The significant point is the giver. His heart was in the right place. It was an awesome thing he did.

    November 29, 2012 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Big Red

    Yes, there are scam artists out there. But there are also people genuinely in need, and we've all seen both kinds. One day I saw a man carrying take-out food, apparently on his way back to work, when he passed a homeless man sitting on the sidewalk. The man with the food stopped, talked to the homeless man for a moment, and handed him the box of food. That homeless man was so grateful, it brought tears to my eyes. On another occasion, a homeless man who regularly hung around the neighborhood of my office was sleeping in my office building's entryway when I arrived at work one morning. I reported this to the security guard, because I was concerned the man might be ill. As it turned out, he had passed away overnight, sleeping in that entryway. I have learned over the years that it's better to be scammed out of a couple of dollars now and again rather than risk turning away someone truly in need. You never know when the tide might turn and you might be the one having to rely on the kindness of strangers.

    November 29, 2012 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  12. John

    What's sad is that it's a news story when a tax paid public servant that does the job correctly. That's what taxpayers pay for. Much too often what we get is heavy handedness and maltreatment for our tax dollars. Too many beatings and not enough oversight. Police depts police themselves and that's absurd. Too many police seek the job in order to be able to do what, much too often, we read about in the news.

    November 29, 2012 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  13. abbydelabbey

    Simply put: an act of human kindness, compassion. God bless him.

    November 29, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Theo

    Thank you officer.

    November 29, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Emerson

    Con job? You have to ignore the comments of cynics who will always find a way to ignore someone's elses' needs and justify their own selfish indifference. Charity from the heart, without an eye to recognition or a tax deduction, is an end in itself and a thing to be praised. Thanks for the living example of man at his best.

    November 29, 2012 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse | Reply
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