A Southern California clothing store owner was shot and killed after an argument about a rainbow Pride flag hanging outside her business, police said, as the LGBTQ+ community continues to face violence and threats across America.
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 is dead following a shootout with deputies after the suspect fled from the first shooting, authorities said.
Ikeguchi had torn down the flag and yelled “many homophobic slurs” toward Carleton, and Ikeguchi 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.
No deputies were hurt in their encounter with Ikeguchi, authorities said.
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.
Carleton, who did not identify as LGBTQ+, advocated for “everyone in the community,” the organization Lake Arrowhead LGBTQ+ said in a statement. “She will be truly missed.”
“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+ messages on social media, authorities say
When deputies tried to apprehend Ikeguchi, the suspect shot at San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies, striking several of their vehicle, Dicus said Monday.
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.”
‘She was so fearless,’ Carleton’s daughter says
The store’s flag had been torn down several times previously, but was always replaced with a bigger flag, Carleton’s daughter, Ari Carleton, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Monday.
“She was so fearless, and any negative reaction she just powered through,” Ari Carleton said. Her mom wasn’t afraid to stand up to anybody, she said.
And Lauri Carleton was just about to replace the current flag because it had aged – the family found a package containing a replacement on their doorstep on Friday night after the shooting, Ari Carelton said.
“She had told my dad that she ordered it because the one that had been hanging had naturally faded from the sun,” 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.
Lauri Carleton was selfless and compassionate, her daughter said. When heavy snow made travel difficult in San Bernardino County and made some residents concerned about access to supplies, Lauri Carleton and her husband handed out food next to their store, the daughter 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.
“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.”
Carleton’s boutique sells shoes, clothing, jewelry, vintage items and gifts.
A career in fashion began early in Carleton’s life as she worked in her family’s clothing shop and attended ArtCenter Colleg