Laura Carleton: Daughter describes store owner slain over Pride flag as ‘fearless’

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A California clothing store owner who was shot dead during an argument over a Pride flag was “fearless”, her daughter says.

Laura Ann Carleton, 66, was shot dead on Friday outside her Mag.Pi store in Lake Arrowhead, 86 miles east of Los Angeles, by a gunman who had made disparaging remarks about an LGBT+ flag outside the store, according to the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department.

The armed suspect was shot dead by deputies near Torrey Rd and Rause Rancho Rd, authorities said. He has not been identified.

Ari Carleton, one of the shop owner’s nine children, told the New York Times her mother had always taught “love, acceptance and equality”.

Laura Carleton was “fearless” and had always put other people’s needs before her own, Ari Carleton told the Times.

Since Ms Carleton opened Mag.Pi two years ago, the rainbow flag hanging outside the store had been removed several times, Ari told the publication.

The store sold ethically sourced clothing and included some of Carleton’s designs, her daughter told the Times.

In February, when a winter blizzard dumped up to four feet of snow on the San Bernardino Mountains, Ms Carleton turned her store into an emergency relief center and handed out supplies to local residents with her husband Bort.

“That really sums up who she was as a person,” Ari Carleton said.

Hollywood stars and members of the LGBT+ community have expressed their shock at Carleton’s homicide.

Writer Alok Vaid-Menon wrote in a social media post that they were “deeply saddened” by her death.

“This is our country now and we can’t look away,” the author said. “Thank you for your allyship. Thank you for your love. I’ll never forget you.”

Director Paul Feig described Carleton as his “wonderful friend”, telling the Times that he would regularly have dinner with her in Lake Arrowhead.

The Lake Arrowhead LGBT+ community group is planning to hold a vigil for Carleton once Tropical Storm Hilary passes.

“We as a community will stand against hate crimes against anybody,” the group wrote.

San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department have not yet confirmed if Carleton’s death is being treated as a hate crime.

In July, GLAAD warned that hate and extremism spiked during the annual Pride celebrations, with at least 356 incidents reported between June 2022 and April 2023.

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