The 15-year-old Chicago boy at the center of the city's vehicle sticker contest controversy said Wednesday that his design, criticized by some for allegedly containing gang signs and ultimately dumped by the city in favor of the contest's second-place winner, was "clean."
Herbert Pulgar, in an interview with CBS Chicago Wednesday, maintained that, his submission had nothing to do with any sort of gang affiliation.
"Not true at all," Pulgar, a Lawrence Hall Youth Services freshman, told CBS. "I'm trying to show love to those first responders."
He added that, after winning the contest and meeting Mayor Rahm Emanuel, he felt proud. But now, he is sad, disappointed and wishes that City Clerk Susana Mendoza had met with him so he could better explain his design's inspiration -- or even be given an opportunity to redraw the controversially shaped hands.
Though Mendoza has not met with the teen, she did announce Thursday that, although the $1,000 savings bond Pulgar was to have won through the contest would now be given to second-place artist Caitlin Henehan, she would personally pay for a separate $1,000 bond to go toward the boy's education, the Chicago Tribune reports.
"I believe that the student who provided the original design should also be recognized for his talent and participation in the contest. I want to encourage him to pursue a degree where he can continue to develop his skills. ... It will not be at taxpayer expense," Mendoza said, according to the Tribune.
Had Mendoza not offered to pay for the bond out of her own pocket, it appears that the Rev. Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina would have.
Pfleger said, prior to Mendoza's announcement, that Pulgar "should still get the $1,000 bond. ... He did his best. He did what he thought. He won. And we should still honor him. We can disagree on the sticker. We can pull the sticker. We should not dishonor this child," the Chicago Sun-Times reports.
The decision to scrap the contest's winning design was reportedly not an easy one and Mendoza said, "frankly, we had a lot of tears in that office making that decision," according to Fox Chicago.
That decision came after an investigation and consultation with gang experts affiliated with the Chicago Police Department and the Chicago Crime Commission, whose president, former CPD superintendent Jody Weis, said the design likely referenced gang signs and iconography. The allegation came from a post on a blog popular with police officers.
His mother, Jessica Loor, on Wednesday said she was very upset about how the controversy has played out.
Pulgar's design was selected by 18,000 Chicagoans who voted in the city's 2012-2013 vehicle registration sticker contest. The boy reportedly was inspired to dedicate his design to first responders after they saved his life when he was badly burned during a fire at the age of 4.