A California man spewed anti-LGBT+ hate online. Then he murdered a mom-of-nine over a Pride flag

Before a 27-year-old California man murdered a mother-of-nine over a Pride flag, he had been spewing anti-LGBT content on social media for some time. Rachel Sharp reports

Tuesday 22 August 2023 08:30 EDT
<p>A makeshift memorial is seen outside the Mag.Pi clothing store in memory of Laura Carleton </p>

A makeshift memorial is seen outside the Mag.Pi clothing store in memory of Laura Carleton

Travis Ikeguchi had been spewing anti-LGBT+ content on social media for quite some time.

Behind his keyboard, the 27-year-old California man was posting images of burning Pride flags and lashing out at the LGBT+ community as well as law enforcement.

Then, he came out from behind his online persona and murdered a mother-of-nine fashion entrepreneur over the Pride flag she had dared to hang outside her own store, according to authorities.

On Friday, Ikeguchi went to the Mag.Pi store on Hook Creek Road owned by Laura “Lauri” Ann Carleton, according to police in San Bernardino.

He confronted her about the rainbow flag, tearing it down while screaming homophobic slurs at her. Then he pulled out a gun, shooting the 66-year-old.

Officers arrived on the scene to find Carleton suffering a single gunshot wound before she died in the street.

By this time, Ikeguchi had fled the scene before he was tracked down by police.

A standoff ensued and he opened fire on the officers before he was shot and killed by law enforcement.

Carleton’s senseless murder has since led to an outpouring of grief and anger from her children and family members, Hollywood stars and the LGBT+ community members who have warned that her killing is a marker of the anti-LGBT+ hate currently being spread across the US.

Now, officials have confirmed the killer’s history of anti-LGBT+ comments on social media.

Speaking at a press conference on Monday, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department said that Ikeguchi – from Cedar Glen, California – had made many posts online that were critical of the LGBT+ community and law enforcement.

Public information officer Mara Rodriguez said that the posts were made on multiple different social media platforms, including X, formerly known as Twitter, and the far-right platform Gab.

Burning Pride flag seen on Travis Ikeguchi’s X / Twitter account

“The content of Ikeguchi’s social media posts contained posts critical to the LGBTQIA community,” said the officer.

Accounts on X and Gab under Ikeguchi’s name, reviewed by The Independent, appear to match the hateful posts referred to by authorities.

In one post, dated 13 June and pinned to the top of the X account, Ikeguchi appeared to post an image of a burning rainbow flag.

“What to do with the LGBTQP flag?” the chilling post was captioned.

In another post on 28 June, the user took aim at same-sex marriage and abortion.

“Abortion and same-sex marriage are both immoral and are design to destroy humanity one by one,” the tweet read.

“So if someone is pro-abortion and pro-LGBTQP, they are at war against the foundation of family values. –Travis Ikeguchi 6/23/2023 6:39am.”

In a post the same day, he revealed a deep-rooted paranoia for law enforcement.

“Do not follow their traps they want to know everything about you to catch you and used against you in court and lie about you. Watch out their sociopathic schemes,” the post read.

Over on Gab – the site popular with extreme right-wing figures – the account believed to belong to Ikeguchi regularly shared anti-LGBT+ and anti-law enforcement rhetoric.

In another post on 28 June, the user took aim at same-sex marriage and abortion

One harrowing post shared on Friday – the day of Carleton’s murder – read: “America must repent for a lot of things we allow; abortion/baby killing, sexual immortality, pornography, same-sex marriages, LGBTQP/pedophilia, freemasonry, religiosity, politics, wars, colonialism, the federal reserve.”

The anti-LGBT+ content went back as far as two years, with a 2021 post reading: “We need to STOP COMPROMISING on this LGBT dictatorship and not let them take over our lives!”

In another violent post also from 2021, the user spoke of killing police officers.

“I know it’s controversial for me to mention the option to kill a police officer, but these police officers are not the servants for the people they are the servants for the laws,” the post read.

The Independent has reached out to San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department for comment on the accounts.

A sheriff’s spokesperson told NBC News that Carleton’s murder is now being investigated as a hate crime.

The Californian community has been left reeling from the mother-of-nine’s murder, which comes at a time of increased anti-LGBT+ right-wing rhetoric.

Friends have said that Carleton had been faced with people ripping down the Pride flag hanging outside her Cedar Glen clothing store ever since she opened the store two years ago.

But, the well-known LGBT+ ally refused to be undeterred, and would simply get a new flag and hang it right back up.

Never did anyone expect that her bravery in the face of hate would end with her brutal murder.

Laura Ann Carleton was shot dead at her business Mag Pi clothing in California

Her daughters Ari and Kelsey released a statement on Instagram saying that their mother, who was married to husband Bort for 28 years, was “murdered over a pride flag that she proudly hung on her storefront”.

They remembered her as a “fearless, cool and compassionate” human being.

“Make no mistake, this was a hate crime,” they wrote.

“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,” the post read.

“We are overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support that our family has received from loved ones and strangers alike, it has provided hope and light in our darkest days. We will continue to advocate for love, equality and acceptance in everything that we do. Love will always triumph over hate.”

Many other friends and Hollywood celebs echoed their sentiments.

Hollywood Director Paul Feig, whose works include Bridesmaids and The Heat, posted a tribute on Sunday in memory of his very close “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,” he wrote.

Paul Feig and Lauri Carleton

“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.

“Let’s all keep moving forward with tolerance and love. Let’s not let Lauri’s tragic death be in vain.”

Sex and the City actress Kristin Davis, Star Trek actor George Takei and Jamie Lee Curtis also echoed these words.

Meanwhile, outside the store where she was killed, loved ones, allies and community members showed their own defiance in the face of hate.

As well as flowers, cards and photos of the popular store owner and mother-of-nine, multiple rainbow flags are now proudly on display.

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