Last Updated on August 28, 2023 by BVN
Gail Fry | IE Voice News & Black Voice News Contributor
A shopkeeper’s stand for equality of the LBGTQ community and met with objections from certain people in the San Bernardino Mountain communities has ended in tragedy.
The rainbow flag she displayed outside her shop was torn down, and the shopkeeper, Laura Ann Carleton, shot and killed.
After a lethal force encounter, her killer is also dead at the hands of San Bernardino County sheriff deputies. Both deaths occurred on the afternoon of Friday, August 18.
Responding to a call, the deputies found Carleton suffering from a gunshot wound. She was later pronounced deceased at the scene by emergency medical personnel according to a press release from the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department.
The department revealed that after further investigation, they learned the suspect, Travis Ikeguchi, 27-years-old and a resident of Cedar Glen, “made several disparaging remarks about a rainbow flag that stood outside the store before shooting Carleton” and argued with Laura just before he shot her.
Following the shooting
As the incident unfolded, sheriff deputies were alerted to two locations, the Mag Pi clothing store on Hook Creek Road in Cedar Glen where the shooting occurred, and Torrey Road, east of Highway 173, near MacKay Park where it was reported the suspect had fled to on foot.
At an August 21, press conference, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department revealed that witnesses followed the suspect and led deputies to where the suspect was last seen and upon locating him, the suspect opened fire on the deputies upon which a lethal force encounter occurred. The suspect was pronounced deceased at the scene.
The department revealed the firearm was a Smith and Wesson Model 69069 millimeter semi-automatic handgun, and is still being investigated.
In response to questions at the press conference, San Bernardino County Sheriff Shannon Dicus acknowledged the suspect was not on their radar until the incident. Dicus concluded, “We don’t tolerate things like this.”
An eyewitness speaks
Black Voice News interviewed an eyewitness to the encounter, Sandy Jones, who works at the Cedar Glen Trading Post. Jones related that he was outside relaxing when he noticed some commotion over by Carleton’s store.
Jones shared he observed the silhouette of a person yanking on the flag and saw the same person crouching around a black SUV. This prompted Jones to yell out asking the guy what was going on.
“And then I saw the gun. He raised the gun out of his right pocket and raised it up,” Jones recalled, adding, “[H]e was still arguing. I heard a shot.”
“I realized that [it] was actually a gunshot, then I heard another shot and people started hanging around a little bit.” Jones continued, “And [a] lady from the restaurant came out.”
According to Jones, after the lady from the restaurant calmed down, she went into the store to take Carleton’s pulse. Carleton was dead Jones advised.
“At first people thought I was kidding when I was yelling at them to call 911. Even the husband didn’t believe me at first, but then he saw everything else and he lost it,” Jones recalled, remembering the deputies running in the direction of the suspect.
Jones admitted he was affected by the incident explaining you can’t run from it, you have to get it out of your system. You just have to be bigger than the incident, confiding, “I think I might have to go talk to somebody.”
She was a nice person and had a big thing about fall, Jones recalled of Carlton, sharing how they would gather oak leaves and place the orange and yellow leaves all over her neat little shop’s porch.
“I’ve never seen anything like that on this Podunk little mountain. It’s Mayberry. . . it’s not Mayberry anymore,” Jones observed sharing how he was more accustomed to activities such as people fishing for trout and bluegill, and that what occurred here was not supposed to be part of the action.
Other residents share viewpoints
Wendy Armstrong came to pay her respects to Carleton, recalling how Carleton said she had ordered the rainbow flag online, and how she and her husband had decided “We don’t want to make ourselves targets.”
“I’m afraid if you put anything out there that you believe anything differently, you’re a target, I didn’t know it would go that far,” Armstrong noted, adding how the shooter is not the only one up here on the mountain that has those beliefs. “It makes me sick.”
“My beliefs are totally different than most people up here,” Armstrong expressed, explaining, “I just happen to have cousins that are part of the LGBTQ [community], and I can’t even imagine, you know, what they have to go through.”
“She was a wonderful woman, and her husband was a great guy,” Armstrong shared about the Carletons. “But get the word out, because people just don’t get it.”
“Yeah, she has an absolute right to display that flag. She could display the Nazi flag,” another local resident, Alan Spears, commented. “That isn’t the question. No question about it. It’s a sad commentary that she was shot exercising [her rights].”
“I think what people don’t realize is there are a lot of folks that have moved up here to remove themselves from society down the hill and the causes and protests that occur down there,” Spears remarked, “So there’s a time and a place. These rights are important, [from] their constitutional rights to God-given rights. But, they’re not absolute and have to be tempered with some common sense.”
Spears continued, “It’s damn unfortunate, but my understanding is there was a lot of discussion about that [flag] flying over the course of a couple of years with numerous requests to perhaps consider taking it down. She chose not to. She paid a very severe price.”
“I’m glad the sheriff’s shot the [expletive] out of that [guy]. That he’s [expletive] dead,” Spears concluded, “That’s all I have to say,” he concluded referring to the fate of the suspect.
Former mountain resident shares her thoughts
Cyndie Martin, a former teacher who now lives in Newport Beach, shared she feels deeply about this, was compelled to come up Cedar Glen to honor Carlton and that she has a lot of friends who are gay, and who feel very threatened right now, as well as Jewish people and other minorities, citing the politicians who are spreading hate.
“I wanted to pray for her and her family, and I just have to pray for this country, because we’re going into a dark deep hole,” Martin offered, adding, “If God forbid, Trump is elected, we’re really in bad shape.”
Martin said she previously lived with her parents in Crestline, and had visited Cedar Glen many times.
“I’m a teacher and I taught a lot of trans and gay kids that didn’t feel comfortable at their school, I was at an alternative ed school, and [it] made me feel like a family,” Martin observed how it can be scary to stand up for what’s right and wrong right now.
“You can be mentally ill and get a gun,” Martin said, acknowledging how mostly young disenfranchised men are not even connected with the truth anymore and are being driven to violence by the hateful words of politicians, noting specifically former President Donald Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.