Emmett Tyrrell

Washington-Jeffrey Hillman is a man who shambles the streets of New York City looking quite unkempt, drab, and hopeless. He panhandles sometimes and mutters to himself. Frankly, he looks a wreck and apparently is often in need of a pair of shoes. On cold winter nights he gets them.

One cold November night, Officer Lawrence DePrimo spotted Hillman seated shoeless on the pavement of Times Square, and the young policeman left his post, went into a store nearby, and bought Hillman a pair of shoes costing $100. He even helped Hillman put them on. A tourist snapped a picture of DePrimo doing this, and the picture appeared on Facebook. It went viral, and was seen around the world -- a young New York City cop, putting shoes on a beggar.

What an auspicious way to begin the Christmas season. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg declaimed, "That's what they're trained to do -- help people." Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly was more appreciative. He gave the 25-year-old policeman a pair of police department cuff links at a private meeting. Others now claim to have bought Hillman shoes over the years. My guess is he has got a stash of them some place. Possibly he is planning to open a shoe store. Assuming, that is, that his tax rate does not go up under President Obama.

We are learning more about Hillman as time goes by. He is not homeless. The New York Daily News reports that the 54-year-old lived from 2009 to 2011 in transitional housing sites called Safe Havens. Owing to his status as a veteran, he then secured his present apartment through the Department of Veterans Affairs. Veterans outreach services have continued to try to help but apparently for naught. A spokeswoman for the city's outreach services reported that Hillman "has a history of turning down services." Doubtless some day he will become ill, and the city will put him in some government program to recuperate, possibly Medicaid, possibly Obamacare.

The more one looks into the case of this beneficiary of state and federal welfare, the more curious his plight is. The Daily News reports that he played basketball for South Plainfield High School in New Jersey. A smiling Hillman is pictured in the South Plainfield High School yearbook horsing around with classmates, one of whom, John Graf, became a minister. Actually Hillman looks much different than the shambling vagrant seen in Times Square without shoes in November. He looks pretty middle class. His classmates look rather prosperous too and quite happy. What happened?

Emmett Tyrrell

R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is founder and editor in chief of The American Spectator and co-author of Madame Hillary: The Dark Road to the White House.
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