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A mother and businesswoman whose LGBTQ advocacy cost her her life: Who was Laura Ann Carleton?

Tributes have poured in for the 66-year-old mother-of-nine who was shot dead after an altercation over a Pride flag she was displaying

Faiza Saqib
Wednesday 23 August 2023 13:21 BST
California Woman, 66, Shot Dead Following Pride Flag Argument

On Friday, 18 August, police were alerted to a report of a person being shot at a clothing store.

Officers identified the victim as the store’s owner, Laura Ann Carleton, who had suffered a gunshot wound. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

Officials said there had been an altercation at her store over an LGBTQ Pride flag that she was displaying. The suspect, now identified as 27-year-old Travis Ikeguchi, had made “several disparaging remarks” about the flag before shooting her, police said.

Ikeguchi fled the scene after shooting Carleton, but was found by sheriff's deputies several miles away and was fatally shot in a confrontation.

Authorities later revealed that Ikeguchi had posted a series of homophobic comments on social media.

The attack has sparked outrage across the community and social media.

Carleton was a mother, business owner, fashion enthusiast – and a passionate LGBTQ+ advocate.

Who was Laura Ann Carleton?

Carleton, known as “Lauri” was 66 years old and was the owner of a clothing store called Mag.Pi, located in Cedar Glen, near San Bernadino in Southern California.

According to the official Mag.Pi store website, her love for fashion was sparked during her teenage years.

She started her career working in the family business at Fred Segal Feet in Los Angeles while attending the Art Center School of Design. She then made her way to Joseph Magnin Century City and began running the “top fashion” show floor.

Progressing in her fashion career, Carleton joined Kenneth Cole and remained there for over 15 years, where she worked with factory and design teams in Italy and Spain.

Laura Carleton was killed by a gunman outside her store (Mountain Provisions Cooperative)

The designer travelled with her husband Bort across the US, Europe and South America, which fuelled her love for design, fashion, food, fine art and architecture.

Carleton said Mag.Pi,strives to tackle “everyday life with grace and ease and continuing to dream.”

The couple lived in Studio City, Los Angeles, and also own a 1920s fisherman’s cabin on Lake Arrowhead. Her website sayd: “With a penchant for longevity, Laura has been married to the same man Bort for 28 years. She is an amazing mother of a family of nine children, the youngest being identical twin girls.”

What have people said about her?

Hollywood director Paul Feig – whose movies include Bridesmaids and The Heat – led tributes to the mother-of-nine, remembering the much loved “true ally”.

Under a picture of the two of them together, Feig wrote: “We are all devastated for her husband Bort and her family and the LGBTQ+ community, for whom Lauri was such a true ally. Her alleged murderer was later shot and killed by the San Bernardino police and so no longer poses a threat to the community. But this intolerance has to end.

Paul Feig and Lauri Carleton (Paul Feig via Instagram)

“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.”

A charity organisation, Lake Arrowhead LGBTQ+, said in a statement that Carleton was an ally for the community.

It said: “Lauri did not identify as LGBTQ+ but spent her time helping & advocating for everyone in the community. She will be truly missed. From what we understand the suspect is no longer a threat.”

A resident leaves flowers at a makeshift memorial outside the Mag.Pi clothing store (AFP via Getty Images)

Carleton’s daughter, Ari, put out a heartbreaking message in homage to her “fearless, cool and compassionate” mother.

The post was coupled with several photos of Carleton with her loved ones, with the caption: “Make no mistake, this was a hate crime. Her flags had been torn down before and she always responded by putting up a bigger one. Our family is broken.

“We have a long road ahead of us as we navigate this new reality without our loving matriarch. 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 continued: “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 hate.”

“I feel deeply saddened by this,” actor Jamie Lee Curtis said on Instagram. “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.”

Goodwill Ambassador for the UNHCR and Sex and The City star Kristin Davis said Carleton’s murder is a “hate crime” and added: “I cannot comprehend what has happened and I can only imagine what her family and close friends are going through. We cannot rest in our work towards love and understanding and equality for every person. It is abundantly clear that divisive senseless hate is the only motive for this hate crime.

“Lauri was a strong ally, when her Pride flags were stolen she quickly replaced them. To think that she was murdered for her support of our LQBTQ+ family tears my heart into pieces. I want Lauri to be known as the HERO she was and is. I want her family to know we are thinking of them and for everyone to know that we must continue to stand up for what is right! #lovewins.”

Tributes from the community

Comments from members of the community also began to pour in after daughter Ari made the post about her mother, sharing her pain and grief with the world.

A makeshift memorial is seen outside the Mag.Pi clothing store (AFP via Getty Images)

One person wrote: “My husband and I met your mom 3 weeks ago as we stumbled into her store. She was kind, and generous and such a force. She spoke so highly of her two girls and told us about all the times she drove you up to lake arrowhead during HS to make memories with you. She made us feel like we were family in a 30 min conversation. I am so sorry for what has happened. She was an angel on earth and now a real one.”

Another said: “I am so grateful for angels like your mother who so selfless took care of others. As a gay man my heart goes out to you and your family even more so that she has been such a fearless warrior for my own personal acceptance in this world. I truly love you and your family. My heart is hurting, but I will take the advice I just got from her well-spoken, beautiful, brave daughter. That is to stay focused on positivity and love and to honor her legacy.”

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