Riverside County deputy’s kind act toward homeless woman goes viral


The searing pavement in the hot Temecula sun was too much for a barefoot homeless woman, so she hopped around the mall parking lot, looking for spots of shade.

That drew the attention of some shoppers who thought she was looking to break into parked cars, so the sheriff’s department was called.

Riverside County Deputy Bruce Pierson arrived Sunday and met “Franki,” an 18-year-old woman who had been homeless since she was 12. She told Pierson she felt she was being harassed because she is homeless when she was just trying to stay out of the sun. She had been barefoot and shoeless for two months, Pierson said.

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“Her feet were blacker than my boots,” he said.

That’s when he offered to buy her shoes. Franki, he said, was skeptical, but she followed him into a Payless store in the Promenade Temecula. 

Pierson said Franki was overcome with emotion as she opened several boxes of shoes.

Shopper Joshuah Rounds noticed the deputy and chipped in $10 toward the purchase of the shoes. At the same time, he took photographs of Pierson buying Franki shoes and later posted them on Facebook. Pierson said he didn’t know Rounds was taking photographs.

The photographs have since gone viral, earning Pierson unexpected attention.

Rounds said he was “thankful our city is filled with helpful police officers.”

Another shopper also offered to buy Franki shoes. In the end, Franki got a scarf, socks and two pairs of shoes.

Pierson later called his wife who gathered a bag of clothing and bought two bags of dog food for Franki’s pets.

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The next day, Pierson found Franki with the help of fellow deputies and he gave her the supplies.

Franki, her boyfriend and two large dogs had been sleeping in a bush under a tarp on the streets of Temecula.  The couple had been living on the streets for about a year after they lost their baby to sudden infant death syndrome, Pierson said.

With El Niño on its way, Pierson said an area homeless group offered to find housing or a tent for the couple.

Helping the couple was second nature to Pierson.

“I was raised to do the right thing,” he said. “I did it because it was the right thing to do at the time.”

Pierson, 46, said he didn’t expect the attention he has gotten since the photographs went viral.

“Law enforcement as a whole does this every day,” he said. “This is something that got noticed.”

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