Colorful flower bouquets threaded through the door handles, handwritten cards, and rainbow pride flags hanging in the awnings — this has been the scene for several days outside the Mag.Pi clothing store in Cedar Glen, a mountain community bordering Lake Arrowhead.
Locals, members of the LGBTQ+ community and allies are mourning the death of the business owner, whom officials say was shot during a dispute over a pride flag hanging outside her shop.
On Friday, Aug. 18, Laura Ann “Lauri” Carleton, 66, confronted Travis Ikeguchi, 27, of Cedar Glen, outside of the store, San Bernardino County sheriff’s officials said. According to witnesses, Ikeguchi tore down the pride flag hanging outside the shop, and Carleton confronted Ikeguchi in the street. During the conflict, Ikeguchi reportedly shouted homophobic slurs before shooting Carleton, and fled on foot. Carleton died at the scene.
San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies who responded to multiple 911 calls located Ikeguchi about a mile away. A brief firefight occurred, and Ikeguchi was shot. Ikeguchi died at the scene, officials said.
Tom Aguirre, owner of the Cedar Glen Trading Post a few stores down from the Mag.Pi, emphasized how close-knit the mountain community is. “It’s unbelievable … it’s hard to believe that there’s that much hate,” Aguirre said. “I’ve lived here 52 years, and you know there have been a few things over the years but nothing quite like this.”
As of Tuesday, Aug. 22, the investigation is still ongoing, as the Sheriff’s Department tries to confirm that Ikeguchi was acting alone. Before his death, Ikeguchi posted anti-LGBTQ, anti-police and conspiratorial messages on social media, including X (formerly Twitter) and Gab.
Carleton is survived by her husband and their nine children.
Kelsey and Ari Carleton, two of Carleton’s daughters, shared on Instagram about how their family is “broken … we have a long road ahead of us as we navigate this new reality without our loving matriarch.”
“Our beautiful mommy was taken from us in a senseless act of violence,” the sisters wrote on Sunday, Aug. 20. “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.
“We find peace in knowing she passed quickly in a place she cherished, doing what she loved while fiercely defending something she believed in,” the sisters added, alongside a post sharing family photos and old photos of their parents. “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.”
Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State San Bernardino, said hate crimes against the LGBTQ community rose 52% last year in 42 major cities. Hate crimes against gender non-conforming people, including those in drag, increased 47% during the same period and anti-transgender hate crimes rose 28% during the same period.
The data is part of a report that will be presented Friday at the August meeting of the California Commission on the State of Hate.
Across the Inland Empire, LGBTQ organizations responded to the shooting, with many leaders calling it a tragedy.
“During a time with much anti-LGBTQ extremism, this tragic and senseless killing is another reminder that anti-LGBTQ rhetoric comes at a cost,” reads a statement from the health equity nonprofit TruEvolution, posted to social media.
Brock Cavett, an advocacy director with Riverside LGBTQ+ Pride, one of the largest active organizations working to uplift the region’s diverse community, noted that it’s “a scary time to be out and proud.” He emphasized support and creating safe spaces for LGBTQ+ communities, especially in “more remote” areas — but that physical and verbal attacks “can also happen in larger and more progressive cities.”
Cavett urged community allies who might “start to sink back into the shadows” to be extra vigilant. “This is the time to continue to be vocal, continue to show that allyship. Allies have the opportunity to be visible supporters,” he said.
Riverside Pride, which celebrates its second Inland Empire Pride Festival in Riverside on Sept. 10, hopes to provide a space at the event where people can honor Carleton and other victims of anti-LGBTQ+ violence, discuss advocacy work and learn about their rights and protections.
Members of the area’s LGBTQ+ community mourned Carleton’s death. Many are rallying efforts for an upcoming memorial for Carleton, as well as seeking donations to support related causes.
Wesley Lynn, founder of Lake Arrowhead LGBTQ+, said the area has had several openly LGTBQ+ inclusive events without incident — including a pride festival at the village, a drag queen boat parade in the lake, and a monthly gay night at a local tavern. Lynn said the mountain towns around the lake are all different in terms of demographics; yet even with the area’s growing and diverse population, “everyone knows each other.”
More people who identify as LGBTQ+ have also moved up the mountain, Lynn observed, including other business owners and allies who have received nothing but “little comments here and there.” But he also noticed that more residents are putting up pride flags, openy showing their support.
“It could be harder for some people who’ve lived here for generations to accept the change … but for the most part here, we all get along,” Lynn said. “It’s eye-opening that something like this could happen to an ally. When something like this happens, it instills fear.”
Bev Eskew, owner and chef of the Spade and Spatula gastropub in neighboring Blue Jay, said that Carleton helped her feel more welcomed to the lakeside community. Eskew called Carleton an “awesome woman and a fierce ally.”
“This was a queer-owned business I was opening up, and I didn’t feel like there was a lot of support for that up here,” Eskew, who’s known Carleton since 2021, said. “(Lauri) was one of the few that stepped up, and I’m forever grateful.”
She and Carleton were also part of the Mountain Provisions food cooperative, made up of community members who have helped provide food and resources to those in need during the recent winter storms.
“She kind of ended up being the mom of the co-op, the heart and the soul; someone you can go and talk to about just about anything,” Eskew said. “She was an outgoing person and just generally had a heart to support the underdog.”
A few stores down from the Mag.Pi, at Timberline in the Glen, employees shared stories of Carleton being a “powerful force,” “beloved” by locals, and “a woman of great conviction.” Mourners remember her for opening her store to pass out supplies during the snowstorms.
Dee Zamora, a sales associate, said the co-op she helped to create provided free food and clothing for those out of work or who were stranded in the winter storms.
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“To see a woman with strength and power and conviction, it’s an admirable quality,” said Zamora. “The best thing we can do is honor her by continuing to give back to the community the way she gave back to us.”
On its website, the Mountain Provisions co-op is raising money for the Lauri Carleton Memorial Fund. Funds raised will go to initiatives to support LGBTQ+ awareness, equality and inclusion and to support the food co-op.
Timberline in the Glen sales associate Patricia Walker remembered Carleton as having a “great sense of humor, and a strong voice.”
“She wasn’t afraid to tell you what she was thinking. You may not always agree with her. But most of the time I did and we’ve gotten along very well. I always thought she was a wonderful addition to Lake Arrowhead.”
On Tuesday, Lake Arrowhead resident Allison Galindo stopped to bring flowers to the storefront.
“It is horrible how someone could do this to another person, especially someone like her,” said Galindo. “It always seems like the good people you know, the people who do so much for others, why would they be targets? I don’t have the answers, it just doesn’t make any sense.”
For more information, and to donate to the Lauri Carleton Memorial Fund, visit MountainProvisions.coop/memorial.
The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department asks anyone with information about Carleton’s shooting to contact the homicide detail at 909-890-4904. Those wishing to remain anonymous can contact the WeTip Hotline at 1-800-78-CRIME (27463) or go to wetip.com.