updated 11/29/2012 AT 10:00 AM ET
•originally published 11/29/2012 AT 11:45 AM ET
Santa arrived early this year and was wearing an NYPD uniform.
When Officer Larry DePrimo encountered a barefoot, homeless man on his Times Square beat on the cold night of Nov. 14, the policeman promptly went inside the nearby Skechers store and bought a pair of $100 boots (a store employee sliced the price to $75 with his own staff discount) and presented them to the man.
As it so happened, Jennifer Foster, a tourist from Florence, Ariz., not only witnessed the generous act, but captured the moment with a cellphone photo. She emailed it to the NYPD, which then posted the shot on its Facebook page, reports The New York Times.
The result? Not surprisingly, the handsome 25-year-old DePrimo, who joined the force two years ago and lives with his parents on Long Island, is not only a hero, but an Internet sensation.
As of Wednesday night, the post had been viewed 1.6 million times, and by the following morning had drawn nearly 350,000 “likes” and 85,000 “shares” – and was a topic of discussion on morning television.
DePrimo, who said his own feet were freezing that night (despite his wearing two pairs of socks), still keeps the Skechers receipt in his vest, to remind him “that sometimes people have it worse.”
As for the man in need, “He was the most polite gentleman I had met,” DePrimo told The Times, adding that the man’s face lit up at the sight of the boots.
And while the officer also offered him a cup of coffee, “as soon as the boots were on him,” DePrimo said, “he went on his way, and I just went back to my post.”
The two never so much as exchanged names.
Know a hero? Send suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more inspiring stories, read the latest issue of PEOPLE magazine