As tensions run high with police in communities across the country, one Las Vegas shirt-maker is spreading its controversial message. The man behind the “shoot cops” t-shirts insists it’s a message of non-violence, not an attempt to put police in harm’s way.
Francisco Carbajal’s t-shirts display the words “shoot cops” on the front. A closer a look at the design shows the shooting doesn’t refer to firearms, but cameras.
“We’re not promoting violence,” Carbajal said. “Our message is simple. Pull out your phone and record any interaction with a police officer.”
Carbajal admits he could re-phrase the message, but he says he is going for the shock value.
“I see these kids and they’re like, ‘Yeah, eff the cops.’ I’m like, no, no, no young brother. That’s not what we’re saying here. We have full respect for all police officers,” he said. “Here is this message, and what I want you to get out of it is inform yourself.”
He says his inspiration comes from hip hop, high-profile police shootings – such as the one that killed Eric Garner – and personal interactions with police.
He says, as a teen, he was the victim of what he calls unjustified stops and searches by police.
“I never met a policeman who treated me with respect,” he said.
Now, as CEO of North Las Vegas-based Ndigenous Visionaries, he says he’s sold more than 100 “shoot cops” t-shirts during the past year and half.
“He’s playing word games and, as far as I’m concerned, what he’s advocating is violence towards the police,” said retired Metro Police Lt. Randy Sutton. “Somehow, it became socially acceptable within the last year or so to be disrespectful to a police officer.”
A Metro Police spokesperson said the department respects people’s right to free speech.
Sutton, however, isn’t holding back his criticism of the shirts.
“It’s beyond disturbing; it’s insulting,” he said. “It’s camouflage. His message isn’t about shoot the police with a camera. It’s lies. It’s garbage. It’s trash. It’s a lie.”
Carbajal says business is growing. He insists he’s against criminal activity and that he’s doing his best to make sure his message isn’t misinterpreted.
“You can’t fight violence with violence. It doesn’t make any sense,” he said.
In addition to manufacturing the shirts, Carbajal says his group – which includes him and three business partners – plans to distribute fliers informing people about what their rights are if they are stopped by police.