A pride flag, an argument and gunfire: The senseless killing of Laura Ann Carleton

A resident leaves flowers at a makeshift memorial outside the Mag.Pi
A resident leaves flowers at a makeshift memorial outside the Mag.Pi clothing store.
(Robyn Beck / AFP via Getty Images)
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As a gay man, Bob Stuhr appreciated that Laura Ann Carleton flew a rainbow flag outside her clothing business in Lake Arrowhead.

But as a businessman who runs a shop in the same strip mall a few doors down, Stuhr warned Carleton that the flag might not be good for business in the mountain community 80 miles east of Los Angeles.

“I told her when she put all those flags out there that, as a business person, it’s probably not the best idea — because some flags trigger people,” Stuhr said.


But Carleton did not care, and she told Stuhr that bluntly.

“She said ... ‘They don’t have to shop in my store.’”

Carleton was shot and killed Friday by a man who first made “several disparaging remarks about a rainbow flag that stood outside the store,” San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department officials said in a news release.

When sheriff’s deputies arrived, they found Carleton, 66, suffering from a gunshot wound, authorities said. Paramedics pronounced her dead at the scene.

A screenshot of a man and a woman standing outdoors and leaning cheek to cheek
Laura Ann Carleton in an undated photo provided by daughter Ari Carleton.

Deputies said they found the man a few miles away and armed with a handgun after he fled on foot. During a confrontation, deputies shot and killed the suspect.

On Monday, officials identified the man as Travis Ikeguchi, 27.

An account on the social media platform Gab under Travis Ikeguchi’s name routinely posted anti-LGBTQ+ screeds, anti-police rhetoric and conspiratorial content.

Aug. 22, 2023

Days later, the violence of Carleton’s killing — and the outpouring of support from residents, friends and supporters of the LGBTQ+ community — still cling to the scene of the crime.

A single bullet hole punctured the glass entrance to Carleton’s store, Mag.Pi, and solemnly greeted the cortège of mourners dropping off flowers and more rainbow flags.

Friends gathered at nearby stores and in the parking lot outside, crying and holding each other and sharing stories of Carleton, while they tried to wrap their heads around the loss of a woman who was a pillar in the community, equal parts entrepreneur and advocate.

The longtime Lake Arrowhead and Los Angeles resident ran another store, also called Mag.Pi, in Studio City.


Carleton had a long and notable career in L.A.’s fashion world, working at Fred Segal, Joseph Magnin Century City and Kenneth Cole, according to the biography posted on Mag.Pi’s website.

“Mag.Pi for Lauri is all about tackling everyday life with grace and ease and continuing to dream,” her biography says, adding that she and her family “nourished a passion for architecture, design, fine art, food, fashion, and have consequently learned to drink in and appreciate the beauty, style and brilliance of life.”

Laura Ann Carleton was fatally shot by a man over a Pride flag displayed outside her shop in San Bernardino County, then law enforcement shot the man.

Aug. 20, 2023

Carleton had lived part time in Lake Arrowhead for decades and had integrated herself into the community, friends said. The community of about 10,000 nestled around an alpine lake has long been home to a mix of locals and more-affluent people with grand second homes.

Friends said the region has experienced a cultural clash, especially as more city dwellers arrived during the pandemic. But Carleton was good at bridging both worlds, they said, noting that she loved speaking with people who disagreed with her and trying to change their minds.

After a massive snowfall during the winter that trapped residents in the San Bernardino Mountains, Carleton and her husband brought merchants together to set up a “free store” next to her shop where those in need could get free food for four months.

Carleton’s death is now reverberating far beyond the scenic alpine town where she lived.


“The tragic, targeted killing of Lauri over the pride flag displayed at her Lake Arrowhead store was senseless and, unfortunately, part of a growing number of attacks on LGBTQ people and our allies,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, president of GLAAD.

GLAAD and the Anti-Defamation League have tracked more than 350 anti-LGBTQ+ attacks across the country this year, Ellis said.

From Toluca Lake to the Shakespeare Bridge, burning, shredding and stealing Pride flags has only inspired ‘tremendous support’ for LGBTQ+ people.

June 15, 2023

Celebrities, too, are speaking out about Carleton’s killing.

“I feel deeply saddened by this,” actor Jamie Lee Curtis said on Instagram. Curtis has spoken in the past about her transgender child. “This is our country now and we can’t look away. Rest in peace Laura Ann Carleton, a mother of nine. Thank you for your allyship.”

Carleton’s killing follows earlier interactions with people who were upset by her open display of support for the LGBTQ+ community.

One man who drove by in a pickup truck recently complained to Carleton, said Vicki Dolezal, who works at a shop on the commercial strip.

“He was just outside, saying he didn’t appreciate the flag being out. And she just said, ‘Well, to each his own,’ you know, ‘It’s my business. And I want the flag out,’” Dolezal recalled.


Carleton’s experience wasn’t isolated.

A close friend who asked not to be identified for fear of further anti-LGBTQ backlash said she had reconnected with Carleton in 2019 after two signs — one saying “Love is love” and the other supporting then-presidential candidate Joe Biden — were stolen from outside the friend’s home.

Carleton left an envelope filled with cash for the woman, and wrote her a letter with a simple message: Buy a bigger sign.

Hate crimes reported to the LAPD against Black and LGBTQ people rose in the first half of 2022 versus the same period in 2021, a USC analysis finds.

Aug. 16, 2022

“She was fearless,” said Ari Carleton, one of Carleton’s nine children, her voice breaking. “My mom has, like, long been a fierce ally of the LGBTQ community. We have plenty of members of the community in our family and our close friend groups. So it was just important to her. Because those are people that I was raised around and always loved.”

The 28-year-old was at her family’s home in Lake Arrowhead on Monday. She and others have been inundated with messages of support from people across the globe, she said.

But her mother’s loss is about more than an attack on the LGBTQ+ community and its allies. It leaves an emptiness felt by her whole family, which is only beginning to come to terms with it, she said.

A blackboard hanging in the garage at Carleton’s home in Lake Arrowhead summed up their feelings: “Everything changes! Be grateful for everything! Never criticize others.”