California store owner, 66, shot dead after argument about Pride flag outside her shop

Laura Ann Carleton, 66, was an ally of the LGBTQ community, according to a local nonprofit organisation

Andrea Blanco
Sunday 20 August 2023 23:39 BST
California shop owner Lauri Carleton killed over Pride flag

A California business owner was shot to death by a suspect who complained about an LGBTQ flag hanging at the store.

The San Bernardino Sheriff’s Office said that the unnamed individual killed 66-year-old Laura Ann Carleton at her business Mag Pi clothing store after making “several disparaging remarks about a rainbow flag that stood outside the store.”

Deputies responded to the incident around 5pm on Friday following reports of shots being fired. Carleton was pronounced dead at the scene, the sheriff’s office said in a statement.

The shooter fled the scene on foot but was later located by authorities near Torrey Road and Rause Rancho Road. The armed suspect, who has not been identified, was killed during “a lethal force encounter” with police.

The identity of the gunman is yet to be released.

Carleton was a mother of nine and had been married for 28 years, according to her store’s website.

Her daughter Ari paid tribute to her mother as a “fearless, cool and compassionate” human being in a heartbreaking Instagram post where she described her murder as a “hate crime”.

“As most of you know our beautiful mommy was taken from us in a senseless act of violence on Friday August 18th. She was murdered over a pride flag that she proudly hung on her storefront. 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,” she wrote.

“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.

Tributes pour in for Laura Ann Carleton (Screengrab/ABC7)

“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.”

Hollywood stars and LGBT+ community members have also spoken out about Carleton’s horrific murder, condemning the senseless killing and paying tribute to the 66-year-old – while warning that her shocking murder is a sign of the anti-LGBT+ sentiment and hate spreading across the US.

Hollywood director Paul Feig, whose works includes Bridesmaids and The Heat, posted a tribute on Sunday, saying that Carleton, who he called his “wonderful friend,” had been killed by a young man.

“[Carleton was killed] by a 27-year-old who didn’t like that she had a large pride flag hanging outside of her shop. He ripped it down and when she confronted him about it he shot and killed her,” Mr Feig wrote on Instagram.

He continued: “ ... this intolerance has to end. Anyone using hateful language against the LGBTQ+ community has to realize their words matter, that their words can inspire violence against innocent loving people.”

Actor George Takei, also tweeted that her killing was a result of anti-LGBT+ sentiment.

“This is the result of the hate they spew. An innocent woman, a gentle and loving soul, has lost her life” he said.

“My heart aches for her family in the wake of this horrific murder. Those responsible go beyond the murderer. Every anti-LGBTQ politician, bigoted pundit, and right-wing hate monger has Laura Carleton’s blood on their hands.”

The nonprofit Lake Arrowhead LGBTQ+ said in a statement that Carleton was an ally for the community.

Mourners left flowers outside Laura Carleton’s Mag.Pi store in Lake Arrowhead, California, after she was shot dead on Friday (Mountain Provisions Cooperative)

“Lauri did not identify as LGBTQ+, but spent her time helping & advocating for everyone in the community. She will be truly missed,” the organisation said, adding that a vigil will be held at a later time.

Carleton and her family had lived in Studio City for the last 30 years, according to her store’s website.

She began working in fashion when she was a teenager and had dedicated her recent years to travelling the world with her husband.

Her clothing store, Mag Pi, is “all about tackling everyday life with grace and ease and continuing to dream,” the website reads.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in