The Detroit man whose determination to walk more than 20 miles a day to get to and from work inspired an online campaign that raised more than $350,000 for him abruptly moved on Tuesday after telling police that he did not feel safe with his newfound fortune.
According to the Detroit Free Press — whose profile of 56-year-old James Robertson led to the outpouring of donations and gifts, including a new car — the factory worker was moved to a temporary home after consulting with local law enforcement officials.
"We had a meeting with him [and] he expressed interest that he did not feel safe," Detroit Police Capt. Aric Tosqui told the newspaper. "People were actually asking him for money."
More than $350,000 was pledged for Robertson through a crowdfunding campaign launched by Evan Leedy, a 19-year-old college student who read the story and wanted to help a stranger in need. According to the paper, Robertson has yet to see any of the money raised and is expected to meet with financial advisers this week to discuss how the donations will be managed.
"I wanted to get it over with," Robertson said of the move. "There were so many factors involved."
In December, an 86-year-old Detroit man went missing after reportedly winning $20,000 in a lottery game, police said. Last week, he was found stabbed to death, and police charged a 20-year-old with his murder.
"[Robertson] knew about that story," Tosqui said. "And I also know about an incident in the 1st Precinct where a gentleman was killed after he allegedly won some money. In those two examples, no one approached the department. But if somebody won the lottery tomorrow and contacted us, we would look at the situation in the same way and see what we could do," he said.
Robertson told the paper he plans to stay in the temporary residence until he finds a permanent home, possibly closer to his $10.55-an-hour factory job in Rochester Hills.
"Don't get me wrong," Robertson, who has lived in Detroit for more than 15 years. "It'll be hard to leave the city that I love."
Last week, Robertson — who said he was unable to afford to replace his car after it broke down more than a decade ago — was surprised with a new $35,000 Ford Taurus that was donated by a suburban car dealership.
"I don't like it," Robertson told Reuters, "I love it."