Chicago City Clerk Susana Mendoza announced Wednesday afternoon that a controversial design for the city's new vehicle sticker, which allegedly referenced gang signs, will be dumped in favor of the second-place design from a citywide contest held late last year.
Mendoza said Wednesday that the sticker design would not be appropriate given the city's expansive history of struggles with gang violence, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.
Her decision reportedly came after an investigation and consultation with gang experts affiliated with both the Chicago Police Department and at the Chicago Crime Commission, according to CBS Chicago.
"I cannot ask Chicagoans to put a sticker on their car that experts believe may be misconstrued as containing gang symbols," Mendoza said, as reported by CBS.
The winning design, created by Herbert Pulgar, a 15-year-old Lawrence Hall Youth Services freshman, came under fire on a blog frequently read by Chicago police Tuesday. The blogger argued that the artwork -- which shows four hands held up in the air above a heart, a city skyline and symbols representing firefighters, police officers and paramedics -- referenced signs signifying the Maniac Latin Disciples, one of Chicago's most notorious gangs.
Jody Weis, former Chicago Police Department Superintendent and current president of the Chicago Crime Commission, told the Chicago Tribune Tuesday that the hands in the sticker design likely do reference gang signs and iconography.
Earlier Wednesday, Pulgar's mother, Jessica Loor, denied that the sticker design had anything to do with gang signs and also denied that her son was a member of any gang.
"I am very upset. I feel very upset that something so positive could be so negative," Loor said Wednesday, the Chicago Tribune reports. "I feel there's a lot of haters. They can make anything out of anything."
The family's attorney, Blake Horwitz, said that Weis owed the teen an apology as he has suffered anxiety attacks and had trouble sleeping since the allegations surfaced, according to the Tribune.
Pulgar's art teacher, Janice Gould, also defended the teen's design. According to NBC Chicago, she gave the boy a booklet that he used as a reference for the hands depicted in the sticker. She said the controversy "has undone" the positive impact winning the contest had for him.
Several police blogs, however, have shared photos and comments from Pulgar's Facebook page that they allege provide further evidence of the teen's gang affiliation.
While the blogs have contended that Pulgar is likely affiliated with the MLD, Chicago magazine points out that the notorious gang's colors are blue or light blue, not the red which other sources have incorrectly claimed represent the gang.
Eighteen thousand Chicagoans voted for Pulgar's design and the boy won a $1,000 savings bond in the contest . He said late last year that he 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.