Daughters describe store owner slain over Pride flag as ‘fearless’

A California clothing store owner who was shot dead during an argument over a Pride flag was described as “fearless, cool and compassionate” in a moving tribute by two of her daughters.

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 and Kelsey Carleton, two of the shop owner’s nine children, wrote on Instagram that their “beautiful mommy” had been taken in a “senseless act of violence”.

“She was murdered over a pride flag that she proudly hung on her storefront. Make no mistake, this was a hate crime,” the daughters wrote.

“Our family is broken. We have a long road ahead of us as we navigate this new reality without our loving matriarch.”

Carleton opened her first Mag.Pi clothing store in Studio City, Los Angeles, in 2013, selling ethically sourced clothing including some of Carleton’s designs.

Ari and Kelsey Carleton said that in the two years since her mother opened her second Cedar Glen, vandals had on several occasions ripped down Pride flags hanging outside.

Each time, her mother would replace them with bigger ones, they said.

“We find peace in knowing she passed quickly in a place she cherished, doing what she loved while fiercely defending something she believed in.

“She was fearless, cool and compassionate — always putting others first.”

The grieving daughters said that the family would continue to advocate for “love, equality and acceptance” in everything they do.

“Love will always triumph hate.”

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 told the New York Times in an interview.

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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