It started with a comment on Facebook for people looking to protest President Donald Trump’s rally Tuesday in downtown Phoenix.
Among many posts about where to meet up and what to bring to the “Protest Trump Downtown Phoenix” event, one appeared that wasn’t like the others.
“You are all pathetic. Cant wait to drive through. 4×4 with push bumper will be sweet in this crowd. I named my lifted truck ‘trumper,’ ” James Cobo wrote.
The comment seemed to reference an incident just 10 days before, when 32-year-old Heather Heyer was killed after a car slammed into a group of protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia.
People began taking screenshots of the post, researching the man who appeared to have posted it and contacting companies that could be his employer.
Less than 24 hours later, an automotive-services store in Buckeye, a city about 40 miles west of downtown Phoenix, posted to Facebook condemning the threat and distancing itself from the man who posted it.
James Cobo had been an employee of West Valley Tires Point S, but that tie was severed as of Wednesday.
“West Valley Tires Point S wants to publicly state we do not condone or support violence or prejudice in anyway shape or form. We were recently made aware of an employee that posted outrageous posts and videos that are in no way affiliated with the positive views, values and appreciation we have for people in our community and throughout the world. That person is no longer affiliated with West Valley Tires Point S.”
“I’m being made into a horrible person over a joke that was just meant to ruffle some feathers,” Cobo told The Republic on Wednesday night.
“I admit it was a tasteless joke, but keyword here is it was a joke. If anybody was ever going to go and intentionally hurt people, why would they talk about it on social media publicly before doing it?”
‘Never thought it would be a big deal’
Cobo stands by what he said, even after losing his job and receiving multiple death threats. He has since bought security cameras for his home.
“I never hurt anybody, nor did I have the intent to,” Cobo said. “I never said I was actually going to hit anybody with a vehicle. They assumed it. Never would have thought it would be a big deal.
“I still can’t figure out why I’m being called a racist. I’ve never even said anything racist.”
He said he did intend to upset people.
“I was poking at them, trying to get a reaction like they do to the Trump supporters,” Cobo said. “Just hurt feelings like they do to everybody that doesn’t feel the same way they do about life.”
He said his post was not referencing the violent incident that killed Heather Heyer, but he also didn’t express sympathy for her.
“If you play in the road, you might get hit by a car. My parents taught me that when I was little,” he said. “Now, her family has $225,000, because she played in the street, and people feel sorry for her family.”
A GoFundMe page created to raise money for Heyer’s family raised nearly $225,000, before it was closed.
He said he did not end up attending the rally but overall does not regret what he said.
“I don’t care that I got fired. I already got another job,” he said. “The only thing that upsets me about this situation is that adults are able to throw a tantrum and raise hell and get what they want by doing so. This is not how America is supposed to work.”