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Man shouted homophobic slurs and ripped down Pride flag before shooting dead California shop owner

A man who shot dead a shop owner in California had ripped down an LGBTQ+ Pride flag outside the business and shouted homophobic slurs at the woman, authorities have said.

Travis Ikeguchi, 27, was killed in a firefight with police on Friday night about a mile from the scene of the shop shooting in Cedar Glen, in the San Bernadino Mountains east of Los Angeles.

Lauri Ann Carleton, 66, was pronounced dead at Mag.Pi, the store she owned and operated.

“Investigators determined that prior to the shooting the suspect tore down a Pride, or rainbow, flag that was hanging in front of the store and yelled many homophobic slurs toward Carleton,” San Bernardino County Sheriff, Shannon Dicus, said.

Several witnesses reported Ms Carleton’s shooting and followed Ikeguchi while he ran away from the store, the sheriff said. The semiautomatic handgun used by Ikeguchi was not registered to him, and he did not have a licence to carry a concealed weapon, according to officials.

Ikeguchi, who lived in Cedar Glen, frequently posted hate-filled homophobic and Christian fundamentalist content on Twitter and the social network Gab, known for its far-right userbase.

On Gab, his pinned post read: “We need to STOP COMPROMISING on this LGBT dictatorship and not let them take over our lives. Stop accepting this abomination that the government is forcing us to submit to these mentally disordered tyrants.”

In other posts he called on America to “repent”, referred to homosexuality as an “abomination” and repeatedly referred to “LGBTQP” [sic] people – a far-right term intended to falsely portray the LGBT+ community as inclusive of paedophilia.

Ms Dicus said the investigation into Ms Carleton’s killing was ongoing. The district attorney’s office will investigate the shooting of the suspect, as is standard practice with all lethal encounters involving law enforcement.

Local community group Lake Arrowhead LGBTQ said: “Our friend and supporter Lauri Carleton was murdered defending her LGBTQ+ Pride flags in front of her store in Cedar Glen California. Lauri did not identify as LGBTQ+, but spent her time helping and advocating for everyone in the community. She will be truly missed.”

Ms Carleton is survived by her husband and nine children in a blended family.

There was an outpouring of support on social media over the weekend, with commenters expressing shock and sadness on the store’s accounts. Many included rainbow flag emojis.

The advocacy group Equality California said in a statement Monday: “We join countless others in mourning the loss of Lauri Carleton — wife, mother of nine, and business owner — who took particular pride in being an outspoken ally for the LGBTQ+ community. Our condolences are with her family and loved ones at this difficult time.

“Over the past year, we have seen a sharp increase in anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric being expressed by far right extremists and hate groups — rhetoric which has resulted in physical intimidation, harassment, and acts of violence.

“Let’s be clear — Lauri Carleton was a victim of the hate-filled calls to action made by politicians and extremists that continue to push false narratives and misinformation about the LGBTQ+ community. Her unwavering commitment to standing for the dignity and respect of LGBTQ+ people is a testament to her kindness and humanity, and will always be remembered.”

California’s Governor, Gavin Newsom, said: “This disgusting hate has no place in CA.”

Law enforcement agencies in several states have investigated the destruction of rainbow Pride flags as potential hate crimes in recent years as LGBT+ issues become an increasing fixation of both far-right extremists and parts of the Republican Party.

Additional reporting by Associated Press

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