NEW YORK (The Blaze/AP) — The New York City homeless man – whose gift of boots from an NYPD police officer became an online sensation last week – is back on the streets with no shoes.
The New York Times found him Sunday night wandering barefoot in Manhattan. The paper identified him as Jeffrey Hillman, formerly of South Plainfield, N.J.
Asked about the $100 all-weather boots Officer Larry DePrimo gave him on Nov. 14, Hillman says he’s hidden them because “they are worth a lot of money.”
He says he’s grateful for the gift, but he wants “a piece of the pie” because the photo was posted online “without permission.”
“I was put on YouTube, I was put on everything without permission,” he added. “What do I get?”
Still, he was grateful.
“I appreciate what the officer did, don’t get me wrong,” he said. “I wish there were more people like him in the world.”
“I want to thank everyone that got onto this thing,” he continued to the Times. “I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart. It meant a lot to me. And to the officer, first and foremost.”
So who, exactly, is Hilman? He told the Times he’s a veteran with two kids and is coy about how he got to this point in life:
Mr. Hillman said he was from South Plainfield, N.J. He said he joined the Army in 1978 and served as a “food service specialist” in the United States and Germany.
He produced a worn veteran’s identification card that confirmed his service.
Mr. Hillman said that he was honorably discharged after five years and that before he became homeless he worked in kitchens in New Jersey.
He has two children — Nikita, 22, and Jeffrey, 24 — but has had little contact with them since a visit three years ago, Mr. Hillman said.
He was reluctant to talk about how he ended up on the streets, staring blankly ahead when asked how his life went off course.
After a long pause, he shook his head and said, “I don’t know.”
Hillman, however, isn’t without family. The New York Post caught up with his relatives over the weekend who, despite knowing about the story and seeing Hillman’s picture — didn’t even realize it was him:
His brother, Kirk Hillman, looked stunned as he saw a copy of The Post with his youngest brother on the front page — and was left speechless.
Hillman’s wife told The Post she followed the story on TV — but never recognized the bedraggled beggar as her own brother-in law, Jeffrey Hillman.
“The last time we heard from him was maybe a year ago on New Year’s Day,” said Tish Hillman, who lives with Kirk in Allentown, Pa., where they’re leaders at Greater Shiloh Church.
How Jeffrey — the brother of a college professor and a church administrator — wound up sitting shoeless on that cold sidewalk remains a mystery.
An Arizona tourist snapped the photo of the officer presenting new boots to Hillman. It went viral after it was posted on the NYPD’s Facebook page.