The man accused of fatally shooting a Southern California clothing store owner after an argument about a rainbow Pride flag hanging outside her business, had social media accounts containing anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-law-enforcement material, sheriff’s office officials said in a Monday news conference.
Laura Ann “Lauri” Carleton, 66, died from a gunshot wound Friday evening at her store, Mag.Pi, in Cedar Glen, about 80 miles by car east of Los Angeles, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Office said.
The suspected shooter, Travis Ikeguchi, 27, also died following a shootout with deputies after fleeing the first shooting, authorities said.
Ikeguchi had torn down the flag and yelled “many homophobic slurs” toward Carleton and shot Carleton when she confronted him, Sheriff Shannon Dicus said. Ikeguchi had also made “several disparaging remarks” about the flag before shooting Carleton, the sheriff’s office said in a news release.
The store’s flag has been torn down several times before, but it was always replaced with a bigger flag, Carleton’s daughter, Ari Carleton told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Monday.
Carleton, who did not identify as LGBTQ+, advocated for “everyone in the community,” Lake Arrowhead LGBTQ+, an organization with which she worked closely and to which she was a large donor, said in a statement.
The attack comes as LGBTQ+ people and their supporters have faced threats and acts of violence alongside “an unprecedented wave of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in 2023,” according to the Human Rights Campaign.
“LGBTQ+ Americans are living in a state of emergency. The multiplying threats facing millions in our community are not just perceived – they are real, tangible and dangerous,” the group’s president, Kelley Robinson, said in June when it declared a national state of emergency for the community.
“This is absolutely horrific,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a social media post about the shooting. “This disgusting hate has no place in” California.
Suspect posted anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric online
When deputies tried to apprehend Ikeguchi, the suspect shot at San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies, striking several of their vehicles, the deputies returned fire and shot Ikeguchi, who died at the scene, Dicus said. A gun recovered where Ikeguchi died appears to be the same gun used to shoot Carleton, according to the sheriff.
Investigators still are investigating the motive in Carleton’s killing, Dicus said.
Ikeguchi, who lived in Cedar Glen, had social media accounts containing anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-law enforcement material, sheriff officials said in a news conference late Monday.
Platforms used by the suspect included Twitter, recently rebranded as X; as well as Gab, a platform popular among far-right extremists.
Authorities were aware of an X account belonging to the suspect that contained a burning Pride flag as its pinned post, Dicus said Monday.
An X account appearing to belong to Ikeguchi contained numerous anti-LGBTQ+ posts, according to a review by CNN. Another post was critical of abortion and same-sex marriage, describing both as a “war” against family values.
In a post critical of law enforcement, the user accused officers of using “sociopathic schemes.”
A fearless and selfless community advocate
“She was so fearless, and any negative reaction she just powered through,” Ari Carleton said, adding her mom was never afraid for her safety and wasn’t afraid to stand up to anybody.
When Lauri Carleton’s family returned home after the shooting Friday night, a package with a new Pride flag was waiting at their doorstep to replace the existing one since it had faded from the sun, Ari Carleton said.
She described her mother as selfless, kind and compassionate. During the winter when people in San Bernardino County were impacted by heavy snowfall, her parents opened a storefront next to Mag.Pi, to hand out food and supplies.
“I know that she passed standing up for something she believed in,” Ari Carleton said.
Countless people have reached out to the family to share what her mom and the flag meant to them, including a family friend who said the flag inspired that person several weeks ago to come out to her family, Ari Carleton said.
“I want to make sure that … we just focus on who she was as a person – just beautiful inside and out – and that we all move forward by preaching love and acceptance and equality in her honor,” Ari Carleton said.
Hollywood director Paul Feig paid tribute to Lauri Carleton, calling her a wonderful friend.
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“We are all devastated for her husband, Bort, and her family and the LGBTQ+ community, for whom Lauri was such a true ally,” Feig wrote in an Instagram post.
“This intolerance has to end,” he said. “Anyone using hateful language against the LGBTQ+ community has to realize their words matter, that their words can inspire violence against innocent loving people. Let’s all keep moving forward with tolerance and love.”
Lauri Carleton’s boutique sells shoes, clothing, jewelry, vintage items and gifts.
A career in fashion began early in Lauri Carleton’s life as she worked in her family’s clothing shop and attended ArtCenter College of Design, a private university in Pasadena, California, according to the store’s website.
Lauri Carleton and her husband were married for 28 years and share “a blended family of nine children,” according to the website. The couple’s interests included traveling, architecture, design, fine art, food and fashion.
“Lauri was the gap between the LGBT community and everyone up here,” Matthew Clevenger, friend and co-founder of Lake Arrowhead LGBTQ+ said on “CNN This Morning” on Tuesday. “She was security for a lot of people because of these flags, she was the brave one.”
“It is not a shock that this occurred in this area, nobody is shocked that gun violence occurred because of somebody having a gay flag up, Clevenger said. “It’s just that we didn’t expect it to happen to someone that was an ally like Lauri, a woman married to a man with a blended family of nine children.”
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