‘Remarkable’ woman shot dead after dispute over LGBTQ+ Pride flag

A picture of California store owner Laura Ann Carleton in a frame with flowers set up during a memorial after Carleton was fatally shot by an unidentified man who made "disparaging remarks" about an LGBTQ+ Pride flag outside her store

A beloved California store owner was shot and killed during a dispute over a LGBTQ+ Pride flag outside her business. The suspect was later killed in an encounter with police.

Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Station deputies were alerted to reports on Friday (18 August) of a shooting at the Mag.Pi clothing store in Cedar Glen, a community north of San Bernardino, California. 

When authorities arrived, they found the shop’s owner, Laura Ann Carleton, 66, suffering from a gunshot wound. Emergency medical personnel pronounced her dead at the scene. 

Her killer, who has not been identified, was armed with a handgun when he fled on foot, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department said in a press release

Police confronted the suspected gunman a short time later, and shot him. The man died at the scene. 

Sheriff’s officials learned during the investigation that the suspect “made several disparaging remarks about a rainbow flag that stood outside the store before shooting Carleton”. 

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Carleton, who was known as “Lauri”, worked in the fashion industry for a number of years, according to Mag.Pi’s website. She travelled around the US, Europe and South America with her husband, with whom she had a blended family of nine children. 

The trips fuelled her “passion” for architecture, design, fine art, food and fashion. 

Members of the local community honoured Carleton’s life with a memorial filled with flowers, rainbow flags and banners outside the store. 

LGBTQ+ Pride flags, flowers and candles are placed outside a California store after its owner, Laura Ann Carleton, was fatally shot in a dispute over a rainbow flag
Local community members placed LGBTQ+ Pride flags, flowers and banners outside Mag.Pi after Laura Ann Carleton was killed by an unidentified gunman. (YouTube/ABC7)

Others mourned her death in posts on social media. 

Lake Arrowhead LGBTQ+ described Carleton as a “remarkable figure” in the area in posts on the local queer community group’s Instagram stories. 

“Lauri’s unwavering support for the LGBTQ+ community and her dedication to creating a safe and inclusive space within her shop touched the lives of many,” the group said in a statement. “Her untimely passing in a senseless act of violence has left us all deeply saddened.”

The LGBTQ+ group said Carleton’s “life and legacy” was a reminder of the “importance of standing together against hate and violence”. 

Lake Arrowhead LGBTQ+ said local community leaders and elected officials will rally together in the coming days to “honour [Carleton’s] memory and ensure that her spirit of acceptance and unity lives on”. 

Lisa Middleton, a trans politician who is running for the California state senate, said in a post on X (formally known as Twitter) that she was “devastated” to hear the news of the “tragic murder” of Carleton. 

Middle said the fatal incident was a “senseless act of violence” and said all Americans must “reject hate, fear and discrimination in all its forms”. 

Democratic congressional candidate Derek Marshall, who is gay, called Carleton a “class act” and said she was a big supporter of the LGBTQ+ community, the Los Angeles Times reported. He added that people in the community knew Carleton as a “kind” person and was almost a “second mom” to many. 

“She was very proud of flying the Pride flag,” Marshall said.

Several businesses and organisations across the US have faced violence and threats for showing their support of the LGBTQ+ community. 

In July, the Community Unitarian Universalist Church, a pro-LGBTQ+ church in Texas, was set on fire just weeks after it was featured in an anti-LGBTQ+ video. 

An Oklahoma donut shop was firebombed after the business hosted an art show featuring drag queens in November.  

An intruder stole an LGBTQ+ Pride flag from an Ohio family’s home and burned it in a shocking “act of violence” in 2020. 

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