Tragedy hit the small unincorporated San Bernardino Countycommunity of Cedar Glen on Friday when Laura Ann Carleton, a store owner and designer, was allegedly killed by Travis Ikeguchi. According to Sheriff Shannon Dicus, Ikeguchi had previously removed the store’s Pride flag and made homophobic remarks before shooting her in the parking lot.
Deputies were able to track down Ikeguchi several miles from the crime scene with a Smith & Wesson 9mm handgun and shots were fired when he refused orders to drop the weapon. Deceased Ikeguchi is now being investigated by local police. The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Office has opened up an investigation to determine motives for the crime and to ensure hate crime charges can be brought.
On Friday, sheriff’s deputies attempted to apprehend a suspect when he reportedly opened fire on them. The officers then returned fire, fatally striking the suspect. No law enforcement deputies were injured in the altercation.
The suspect was gunned down outside of Carleton’s store around 5 pm in California, and authorities are still investigating the incident. Governor Gavin Newsom expressed the abhorrence of such hate and grief on his social media posting Sunday evening.
Carleton had a career in fashion starting at a young age and eventually joined Kenneth Cole Productions where she worked for over 15 years as an executive. Cole gave a statement confirming her longtime friendship and role within the company and expressed deep sadness for her untimely death.
In the Los Angeles neighborhood of Studio City, the Carleton family has lived in a 1920s fisherman’s cabin on Lake Arrowhead. According to the store website, Carleton has been married to the same man for 28 years and is the mother of a blended family of nine children, with identical twin girls being the youngest.
Today, the Lake Arrowhead LGBTQ organization mourns the death of their friend and supporter Lauri Carleton who was murdered defending her LGBTQ+ Pride flags in front of her store in Cedar Glen, California. While Carleton did not identify as LGBTQ+ herself, she dedicated her time to helping and advocating for everyone in the community.
San Bernardino County Supervisor Dawn Rowe released a statement calling this “a senseless act of hate and violence,” stressing that a loss such as this should not go unnoticed.
In a statement, Representative Dawn Rowe expressed her solidarity with the mountain communities in mourning the loss of Lauri Carleton. “Everybody should be able to practice their constitutional right and speak without fear of hate or discrimination,” Rowe said, adding her grief and condolences to Carleton’s family at this tragic time.
Paul Feig, the director of hits like “Bridesmaids” and the 2016 remake of “Ghostbusters”, has taken to social media to remember Carleton as a friend. “She did so much for LGBTQ+ rights and for society as a whole,” Feig wrote “This horrible event should remind us again how real and damaging prejudice can be.”
On Instagram, actress Bridget Everett paid tribute to Carleton for her work advocating for Pride culture, claiming that this wasn’t the first time she has received hate over proudly displaying the Pride flag.
The tragic death of filmmaker and activist Lauri Carleton is the latest in a worrying trend of anti-LGBTQ+ extremist violence. Carleton was shot at her home in Lake Arrowhead, California by an unidentified suspect, according to the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department. The suspect, believed to be 26 year-old Bishan Ikeguchi, was also found dead at the scene.
Friends and family of Carleton recalled how she took steps to protect herself despite threats against her activism. “In the past, when someone took down her flag or vandalized it, she’d put up another one,” said friend Holli Everett in a Facebook post.
The gun allegedly used in the shooting was not registered to Ikeguchi, nor was he a concealed weapon holder; he had also gone missing just days before the incident. The shooting comes during an alarming rise in anti-LGBTQ+ extremism across the nation, with over 350 incidents of harassment, vandalism or assault reported between June 2022 and April 2023, according to a report from the Anti-Defamation League and LGBTQ+ organization GLAAD.