A Temecula deputy sent to check out a report of a homeless teen seen acting suspicious near parked cars ended up buying the young woman a pair of shoes in a simple act of kindness that has gained international attention.
Deputy Bruce Pierson was called out to the Promenade Temecula shopping center on Sunday, according to KTLA sister station KSWB. When he approached the homeless 18-year-old, she explained she had been moving between cars to find shade, the station reported.
She then showed him her feet, revealing she was barefoot.
“She raised her foot, and her feet were blacker than my boots and calloused, and she said, 'I haven’t had shoes in two months,'" Pierson told KSWB.
The deputy decided at that point to take her to a nearby Payless ShoeSource and let her pick out a pair of shoes that he would buy.
As they walked through the store, Pierson learned that the woman went by "Franki," and has been homeless since she was 12 years old. Franki was living on the streets with her boyfriend and two dogs, he said.
While Franki looked around the store, a shopper approached Pierson and asked him if he was buying her shoes. When he told stated he was, she told him she would like to be involved, the officer said.
Another shopper, Joshuah Rounds, went up to Pierson and said he would also like to help. Rounds, who pitched in $10 for the shoes, snapped photos of the deputy's kind gesture and ultimately put them on his Facebook page.
The pictures -- which he posted later that day -- subsequently went viral, and had been shared more than 196,000 times as of Thursday morning. The photos reached users as far away as Turkey, KSWB reported.
The Riverside County Sheriff's Department was among those that shared the post, writing, "Great story about Deputy Bruce Pierson from our Temecula Station."
After the shopping trip, Franki ended up with two pairs of shoes, socks, a scarf and a beanie, according to the San Diego-area station. Pierson's wife pitched in and bought food for Franki's dogs, as well as several sweaters and a blanket for the woman.
The deputy described the process to KSWB as emotional, and said it even brought him to tears.
“It was the right thing to do … I would hope any human would do that," he said.