Deputy sees homeless woman walking downtown street in her bare feet, takes her shoe shopping

Tulsa County Sheriff's Officer Brandon Hendrix doesn't think he did anything extraordinary.

"It's just a pair of shoes," he told Thursday.

Not to thousands of people who have seen an online photo of him standing next to a barefoot homeless woman at a Walmart check-out line.

Some 35,000 have viewed that image, making Hendrix a bit of a local hero in a town that could use some positive feelings directed at its law enforcement officers.

Hendrix, 43, had just left the department's downtown headquarters when he saw a woman walking down a street in her bare feet.

It was 87 degrees. The blacktop had to be blistering hot, he thought. "That looks pretty uncomfortable," he remembers thinking.

He followed her for a bit, then casually remarked on the absence of her shoes. The woman said she'd been in a fight with someone and lost her only pair.

"Do you mind if I take you and buy you some new ones?" he asked her. He also called the station and asked for another officer to join him, "so she'd know I was on the up and up," he said.

She was skittish, but agreed to go.

"I don't think she really believed me until we got to Walmart," he said.

The woman volunteered a few details about her life. She'd become addicted to drugs and fallen on hard times. She had children somewhere.

"She said she was trying to get her life back on track," Hendrix said.

He suggested that having shoes to walk that track sure couldn't hurt.

Inside the big box store, Hendrix told her to pick whatever she wanted.

He and his fellow deputy hung back, he said, so people wouldn't think she was their prisoner.

Eventually she settled on a pair of canvas sneakers that were teal and gray - just like her dress, he said.

He also got her some socks.

"I wanted to take her to a nicer store, but wasn't anything open," Hendrix said, noting that it was early in the morning.

He says he doesn't remember how much the merchandise cost. "I don't know," he said. "I just paid with my credit card."

He drove her back downtown, but she wanted to be let out several blocks from where the homeless congregate.

She didn't want to be seen with law enforcement officers because she would be considered "a snitch," she told him.

That's just fine, he said, and pulled over. Off she went with her new shoes on her feet.

Hendrix says he doesn't understand all the media attention his act of kindness has generated.

One of the last big headlines to come from Tulsa law enforcement concerned the September fatal shooting of a motorist by Tulsa Police Officer Betty Shelby, who now faces manslaughter charges.

Hendrix said he just tried to help someone who needed it. "I would hope that someone would do the same for someone in my family who needed something," he said.

"It's not like it's a big deal. It's just a pair of shoes."