By Peter Rudegeair
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The homeless man who received a new pair of boots from a police officer in New York's Times Square last month in what became a nationally celebrated act of kindness is once again walking the streets barefoot, having hidden the boots.
Unidentified for days after a photo of him with the boots and New York City Police Officer Larry DePrimo attracted national media attention, Jeffrey Hillman, 54, was spotted without shoes on Sunday evening on Manhattan's Upper West Side, according to the New York Times.
"Those shoes are hidden. They are worth a lot of money. I could lose my life," Hillman, 54, told the Times when asked about the boots.
Despite not wearing DePrimo's gift, Hillman still said he was grateful for the officer's charity.
"I appreciate what the officer did, don't get me wrong. I wish there were more people like him in the world," he told the Times.
Hillman, originally from South Plainfield, New Jersey, served as a U.S. Army food service specialist in the United States and Germany until the early 1980s, according to the Times. He declared bankruptcy in New Jersey in 1993 and has been homeless in New York for most of the past decade, according to the Times and the New York Post.
Exactly how Hillman ended up living on the streets is unknown. His family had not heard from Hillman in nearly a year before they recognized him in the viral photo but said they would welcome him into their homes.
"Jeffrey has his own life and he has chosen that life but he knows that our hearts and home are always open to him," Hillman's niece Alegra Hall told the Post.
(Reporting by Peter Rudegeair; Editing by Dan Burns and Bill Trott)