A 27-year-old man who fatally shot a store owner in California had torn down her Pride flag and shouted homophobic slurs, officials said on Monday.
Laura Ann Carleton, 66, who went by “Lauri”, died at the scene of the shooting on Friday outside her Mag.Pi clothing store in Cedar Glen, an unincorporated community in the mountains roughly 60 miles (100km) east of Los Angeles.
San Bernardino’s county sheriff, Shannon Dicus, identified the shooter as Travis Ikeguchi in a Monday press conference. Ikeguchi fled on foot, and when he was confronted by officers, he opened fire on them and hit multiple squad cars, Dicus said. Sheriff’s deputies fired back and fatally shot Ikeguchi a mile from the store.
Ikeguchi, who lived in Cedar Glen, had a history of posting hateful content online, the sheriff said, adding that his family had reported him missing the day prior. He shot Carleton with a semiautomatic handgun, which was not registered to him, and he did not have a concealed carry license, according to Dicus.
The shooting has sparked national outrage and comes at a time of rising reports of anti-LGBTQ+ violence across the US. Carleton’s family and friends have said she was a fierce ally to LGBTQ+ people and had previously faced backlash for displaying a rainbow flag, but refused to take it down.
“She was murdered over a Pride flag that she proudly hung on her storefront,” two of her daughters, Ari and Kelsey Carleton said in a statement on Instagram. “Make no mistake, this was a hate crime. Her flags had been torn down before and she always responded by putting up a bigger one. Our family is broken.
“We find peace in knowing she passed quickly in a place she cherished, doing what she loved while fiercely defending something she believed in. She was fearless, cool and compassionate – always putting others first,” their statement continued.
Friends of Carleton, a mother of nine, posted tributes over the weekend, including the film director Paul Feig, who wrote, “We are all devastated for her husband Bort and her family and the LGBTQ+ community, for whom Lauri was such a true ally.” The Bridesmaids and Ghostbusters director added, “This intolerance has to end. Anyone using hateful language against the LGBTQ+ community has to realize their words matter, that their words can inspire violence against innocent loving people.”
An LGBTQ+ group in Lake Arrowhead, where she lived, said, “Lauri did not identify as LGBTQ+, but spent her time helping & advocating for everyone in the community.”
Bridget Everett, a comedian and star of the HBO show Somebody Somewhere, said she was also friends with Carleton, writing on Instagram, “In the past, when someone took down her flag or vandalized it, she’d put up another one.”
LGBTQ+ rights groups have reported an increase in hate this year, including dozens of incidents of vandalism during Pride celebrations. Equality California, an LGBTQ+ advocacy group, noted in a statement that the shooting comes at a time of attacks on queer and transgender students’ rights at California school boards.
“Lauri Carleton was a victim of the hate-filled calls to action made by politicians and extremists that continue to push false narratives and misinformation about the LGBTQ+ community. Her unwavering commitment to standing for the dignity and respect of LGBTQ+ people is a testament to her kindness and humanity, and will always be remembered,” the group said.