The now-deceased suspect who police say shot and killed a business owner and mother of nine over a Pride flag hanging outside her store reportedly had a history of posting anti-LGBTQ messages on social media, some of which called for violence against LGBTQ people.
Travis Ikeguchi, 27, shot Laura Anne Carleton, the 66-year-old owner of Mag.Pi, a clothing store in Cedar Glen, California. He had torn down her store’s Pride flag and confronted her about her decision to hang up the flag while yelling homophobic slurs. Carleton was shot and died on the scene before law enforcement could respond.
After fleeing the store, Ikeguchi was tracked down by sheriff’s deputies and was killed in a shootout, according to the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department.
Law enforcement authorities say Ikeguchi had a history of writing posts on social media, disparaging the LGBTQ community as “pedophiles,” often adding the letter “P” onto the term “LGBTQ” to drive home his point of view that gay people pose a danger to children and society.
Mara Rodriguez, a spokesperson for the sheriff’s department, said at a news conference that Ikeguchi had created the anti-LGBTQ posts, but did not specifically identify the accounts belonging to him, according to The Washington Post.
The posts on the website X, formerly known as Twitter, that Rodriguez appeared to be referencing were from an account bearing Ikeguchi’s full name that was created in 2015.
Throughout the account’s existence, posts were shared using his full name. At least one post was tagged with a location in California, where Ikeguchi was a resident.
Many of the account’s earlier tweets referenced Christianity and espoused anti-LGBTQ sentiments, often citing Christian beliefs as rationale for hatred of the LGBTQ community. For instance, in June 2018, the account slammed credit card company Mastercard for an ad featuring model Elliott Sailors talking about LGBTQ inclusion — which Ikeguch called a “cancer.”
“LGBT people need to stop asking the world for acceptance, instead they should start accepting Jesus Christ in their hearts and turn away from their false sexual identity that the devil deceived them to be!” the account believed to belong to Ikeguchi declared.
In August 2021, the account conflated the user’s views on LGBTQ rights with his views on abortion: “Abortion is a path to death for the unborn. LGBTQ is a path to death for the once who are already been born.”
As the frequency of anti-LGBTQ rhetoric increased over the past two years — coinciding with the Republican Party’s embrace of anti-transgender and anti-drag messaging as a way to win elections — Ikeguchi followed suit.
On June 13, the account posted a photo of a burning Pride flag with the caption, “What to do with the LGBTQP flag?”
Three days later, the account retweeted and criticized an image of a scissor cutting through the center of the word “LGBTIQA+” with “LGB” on one side and the rest of the letters on the other — an online image anti-transgender activists typically share as a call for people of differing sexual orientations to “divorce” from the rest of the “queer” community. For Ikeguchi, calling for such a schism wasn’t sufficient.
“This tactic is not going to solve anything,” he wrote in a post. “Where you are cutting off the legs of the octopus and can grow back another one. KILL THE OCTOPUS!! Not just its legs!!!”
Ikeguchi also retweeted posts from right-wing pundits or provocateurs who commonly express anti-LGBTQ sentiments online, such as Matt Walsh, Jordan Peterson, and Benny Johnson, who have referred to LGBTQ individuals as having mental disorders, being “groomers” or implying that exposure to LGBTQ visibility constitutes “child abuse.”
In addition to his X account, Ikeguchi apparently had an account on Gab. The platform bills itself as a “free speech” platform that effectively serves as an echo chamber for right-leaning rhetoric, including anti-LGBTQ sentiment and various anti-government conspiracy theories.
According to NBC News, the Gab account believed to belong to Ikeguchi included a biography in which he described himself as “Anti-zionism, Anti-jesuits, and Anti-paganism,” along with the contention that “same-sex marriage should be abolished.”
“We need to STOP COMPROMISING on this LGBT dictatorship and not let them take over our lives!” the account wrote in a pinned post dating back to January 2021. “Stop accepting this abomination that the government is forcing us to submit to these mentally disordered tyrants!”
Carleton’s death was mourned by several local Southern California organizations, including the Lake Arrowhead LGBTQ+ charitable organization, which hailed her as an ally to the LGBTQ community.
“Today was a very sad day for Lake Arrowhead and for the LGBTQ community. Our friend and supporter Lauri Carleton @magpi_shop was murdered defending her lgbtq+ Pride flags in front of her store in Cedar Glen California,” the group wrote in an Instagram post. “Lauri did not identify as LGBTQ+, but spent her time helping & advocating for everyone in the community. She will be truly missed.”
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