Suspect in Cedar Glen shooting over Pride flag shared anti-LGBTQ+ posts on social media: Officials

Leanne Suter Image
Tuesday, August 22, 2023
Suspect in fatal shooting of Cedar Glen store owner identified
The suspect accused of fatally shooting a Cedar Glen store owner last week over a Pride flag shared anti-LGBTQ+ posts on social media, according to authorities.

CEDAR GLEN, Calif. (KABC) -- The suspect accused of fatally shooting a Cedar Glen store owner last week during a dispute over a Pride flag had shared anti-LGBTQ+ posts on social media, according to authorities.

The shooting happened on Friday, Aug. 18, at the Mag Pi clothing store near Lake Arrowhead.

Investigators said Travis Ikeguchi, 27, shot and killed 66-year-old Laura Ann Carleton because she displayed a Pride flag outside her business.

During a Monday afternoon press conference, San Bernardino County Sheriff Shannon Dicus said a 911 caller told dispatchers Ikeguchi cut down the flag while he argued with Carleton before shooting her. He also said the suspect yelled "many homophobic slurs" toward Carleton.

Officials in San Bernardino County provide an update on the deadly shooting outside a Cedar Glen store, allegedly over a Pride flag.

Ikeguchi fled the scene on foot, but was found by sheriff's deputies close to Carleton's store, where he was fatally shot in a confrontation, authorities said.

Mara Rodriguez, SBCSD's public information officer, said the day before the shooting, Ikeguchi's family reported him missing though details regarding that report weren't available.

Rodriguez also discussed Ikeguchi's social media activity and said the 27-year-old had made statements criticizing the LGBTQ+ community on X (formerly known as Twitter) and Gab.

"The content of Ikeguchi's social media posts contained posts critical to the LGBTQIA community," said Rodriguez.

According to a Gab post obtained by Eyewitness News, Ikeguchi shared a photo of a burning Pride flag and wrote, "We need to stop compromising on this LGBT dictatorship and not let them take over our lives." The caption later asked, "Who has the courage to post this and feel no shame of it!?"

Rodriguez said Ikeguchi would also repost videos associated with "anti-law enforcement content."

Unregistered handgun

During the shooting, Ikeguchi was armed with a handgun and refused orders to drop the weapon, according to investigators. That weapon was not registered in the state of California, according to Rodriguez.

"We believe he has no firearms registered to him in the state of California," said Rodriguez. "Based on the investigation thus far, we believe Ikeguchi has not applied for a CCW permit in California."

Who was Laura Ann Carleton?

On her store's website, Carleton said she began her career in the fashion industry when she was a teenager. She attended the ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, before embarking on a career in fashion design. Eventually, Carleton joined Kenneth Cole Productions almost from its inception in 1982 and worked for the company for more than 15 years, becoming an executive, according to the website.

Laura Ann Carleton, a Cedar Glen clothing store owner who was shot and killed allegedly because she displayed a Pride flag, was being remembered as a fierce advocate for the LGBTQ+ community.

Cole posted a statement on social media confirming Carleton had been a friend and a long-time associate of his company. Cole called Carleton's slaying "an unnecessary and tragic death."

While Carleton and her husband have a home in Studio City, the couple owns a 1920s fisherman's cabin on Lake Arrowhead.

According to the San Bernardino Sheriff's Department, the suspect made several disparaging remarks about a rainbow flag that stood outside the store before shooting the owner.

"With a penchant for longevity, she has been married to the same man for 28 years and is the mother of a blended family of nine children, the youngest being identical twin girls," according to Carleton's website.

A "fierce advocate"

The Lake Arrowhead LGBTQ organization posted a message on its Facebook page honoring Carleton, who went by Lauri, and describing her as a strong supporter of LGBTQ rights.

"Today was a very sad day for Lake Arrowhead and for the LGBTQ community. Our friend and supporter Lauri Carleton... was murdered defending her lgbtq+ Pride flags in front of her store in Cedar Glen, California," the group wrote in a statement. "Lauri did not identify as LGBTQ+ but spent her time helping & advocating for everyone in the community. She will be truly missed."

Matthew Clevenger, a co-founder of the organization, recalled that "new folks moving into town -- new couples, new LGBTQ families -- were concerned about moving up here. We hear stories about them driving by her store and seeing the flags and feeling so welcome.

"They immediately felt the acceptance and were no longer afraid to be up here," Clevenger said. "And Lauri did that for them."

"I admire her, and I'm so proud of her, and I know she passed standing up for something she believed in," said Ari Carleton, the victim's daughter.

"She was so fearless and any negative reaction she just powered through," Ari added. "The flags have been torn down before by different individuals, and she always went and ordered an even larger flag in response."

National impact

During Monday's news conference, Dicus spoke about the national attention this case has garnered.

"This particular victim has had an impact really across the United States," said Dicus. "We've been reached out by the vice president of the United States. Our victim certainly had a major impact on the community and people that she's come across with during her lifetime."

Paul Feig -- director of such movies as "Bridesmaids, "The Heat" and the 2016 remake of "Ghostbusters" -- said in a social media post that Carleton was a friend.

"She was a wonderful person who did so much for the LGBTQ+ community as well as the community at large," Feig wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. "What happened to her is an absolute tragedy. If people don't think anti-gay & trans rhetoric isn't dangerous, think again."

Actress Bridget Everett -- of the HBO MAX dramedy "Somebody Somewhere" -- also mourned Carleton in a post on Instagram, saying it was not the first encounter Carleton faced over displaying the pride flag.

"In the past, when someone took down her flag or vandalized it, she'd put up another one," Everett said in her post, which was accompanied by a photo of Carleton. "The last time I saw Lauri was, oddly enough, at Lake Arrowhead Pride both in the parade and then at a party. All that anti-LGBTQ rhetoric has a price. And now, Lauri's husband Bort, her daughters, friends and community are devastated. And for what?"

The shooting came amid a rise in anti-LGBTQ+ extremism across the nation that has led to protests, threats and violence against the community.

A report this year by the Anti-Defamation League and the LGBTQ+ organization GLAAD shows there were more than 350 incidents of harassment, vandalism or assault from June 2022 to April 2023, which the report says coincides with an increase in rhetoric and legislation targeting the LGBTQ+ community.

ABC News contributed to this report.