CEDAR GLEN, Calif. –
A 27-year-old man killed by California sheriff’s deputies over the weekend after he fatally shot a store owner had ripped down an LGBTQ2S+ Pride flag outside the business and shouted homophobic slurs at the woman, authorities said Monday.
When deputies confronted Travis Ikeguchi on foot about a mile from the store Friday night, he opened fire on them, striking multiple squad cars, San Bernardino County Sheriff Shannon Dicus told reporters. Deputies returned fire and shot Ikeguchi, who died at the scene, Dicus said. No deputies were hurt.
Laura Ann Carleton was pronounced dead at Mag.Pi, the store she owned and operated in Cedar Glen. The small community in the San Bernadino Mountains is roughly 60 miles (96 kilometres) east of downtown Los Angeles.
“Investigators determined that prior to the shooting the suspect tore down a Pride, or rainbow, flag that was hanging in front of the store and yelled many homophobic slurs toward Carleton,” Dicus said during Monday’s media briefing.
Ikeguchi, who lived in Cedar Glen, frequently posted hate-filled content on social media, sheriff’s officials said.
The day before the shooting, Ikeguchi’s family had reported him missing to the sheriff’s department, officials said.
Several witnesses reported Carleton’s shooting and followed Ikeguchi while he ran away from the store, the sheriff said. The semi-automatic handgun used by Ikeguchi was not registered to him, and he did not have a licence to carry a concealed weapon, according to officials.
Dicus said the investigation into Carleton’s killing was ongoing. The district attorney’s office will investigate the shooting of the suspect, as is standard practice with all lethal encounters involving law enforcement.
Carleton, who preferred to be called “Lauri,” is survived by her husband and nine children in a blended family.
An LGBTQ group in nearby Lake Arrowhead said Carleton didn’t identify as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. But she spent time helping and advocating for everyone, and she was defending her Pride flags placed in front of her shop on the night of the shooting, the group said.
There was an outpouring of support on social media over the weekend, with commenters expressing shock and sadness on the store’s accounts. Many included rainbow flag emojis.
The advocacy group Equality California said in a statement Monday that over the past year, it has recorded “a sharp increase in anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric being expressed by far right extremists and hate groups — rhetoric which has resulted in physical intimidation, harassment, and acts of violence.”
Law enforcement agencies in several states have investigated the destruction of rainbow Pride flags as potential hate crimes in recent years.