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Suspect named in fatal shooting of California store owner over a Pride flag

Police on Monday, Aug. 21, identified a man who last week shot and killed a California business owner after he allegedly violated a Pride flag she had displayed at her clothing store in Lake Arrowhead, California. Sheriff officials told NBC News the murder is being investigated as a possible hate crime.

Travis Ikeguchi, 27, was responsible for shooting Laura Ann Carleton, 66, to death after she “shouted a lot of homophobic remarks” over the store’s Pride flag on Friday, Aug. 18, San Bernardino County Sheriff Shannon Dicus said Monday at a press conference.

Ikeguchi fled on foot from Carleton’s store, Mag Pi, and was killed later Friday during a “deadly confrontation” with deputies. He fired at multiple patrol vehicles with an unregistered semi-automatic pistol before officials fatally shot him, Dicus said.

Dicus added that it appears Ikeguchi acted alone. However, he said authorities want to make sure the crime is not linked to wider hate groups and that investigations continue.

A sheriff’s spokesman told NBC News the incident is being investigated as a potential hate crime, but officials didn’t elaborate when asked about it at Monday’s news conference.

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Officials said Monday that Ikeguchi — a resident of Cedar Glen, California — had a history of posting messages critical of the LGBTQ community and law enforcement.T on multiple social media platforms, including X, formerly known as Twitter.

Responding to a request for comment about Monday’s press conference, Carleton’s daughter, Ari Carleton, said her “family doesn’t care” about Ikeguchi.

“We will continue to divert the story from him and direct it towards my mother and honor her. He is irrelevant,” she said in a direct message on Instagram. “The media needs to stop glorifying these individuals by giving them this platform.”

California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, condemned the shooting on Sunday, calling it “absolutely horrific.”

“This disgusting hate has no place in California,” Newsom wrote on X.

San Bernardino County Supervisor Dawn Rowe, a Republican whose district represents Lake Arrowhead, also denounced Carleton’s murder and vowed to create an environment where LGBTQ people feel safe and respected.

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“Regardless of your skin color, your sexual orientation, your gender, your political party, there must be acceptance, love and tolerance for everyone in this world. And I say that as a white female heterosexual conservative,” Rowe said in a phone call. “I hate to think that I would live in a community where something like this could happen.”

Carleton’s murder sparked a flood of celebrities, including actors Jamie Lee Curtis and Kristin Davis, and sparked outrage among LGBTQ activists nationwide.

“No one should feel unsafe or be attacked for who they are or simply for supporting the LGBTQ community,” Sarah Kate Ellis, the CEO and president of the LGBTQ media advocacy group GLAAD, said in a statement Monday. “Lauri’s murder is the latest example of how anti-LGBTQ hate hurts everyone, whether they are LGBTQ or not.”

Ellis pointed to a recent report by GLAAD and the Anti-Defamation League, which tallied more than 350 anti-LGBTQ hate and extremism incidents in the US between June 2022 and April.

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Some of the more recent hate-fueled anti-LGBTQ crimes have also involved rainbow Pride flags.

In February, a woman got out of her car, approached a rainbow Pride flag hanging outside a restaurant in New York City and set it on fire. In June, LGBTQ Pride Month, a Pride flag was knocked down and burned outside a city hall building in Tempe, Arizona. Again in New York City in June, Pride flags were knocked down and damaged at least three times outside the Stonewall Inn — the site of the riots seen as the turning point of the modern LGBTQ rights movement.

Carleton was also killed just weeks after the fatal stabbing of a 28-year-old gay man in New York City.

O’Shae Sibley, a professional dancer and choreographer, was stabbed to death on July 29 after dancing to Beyoncé’s music at a gas station in Brooklyn. A 17-year-old man was arrested and charged with murder as a hate crime.

This story originally appeared on NBCNews.com.

This article was originally published on TODAY.com

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