Pride flag killing suspect appears to have a long history of anti-LGBTQ social posts 

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The 27-year-old man who police say shot and killed a California business owner over a Pride flag draped in her store appears to have had a yearslong history of posting disturbing — and often violent — anti-LGBTQ messages on social media. 

The suspect, Travis Ikeguchi, gunned down Laura Ann Carleton, 66, on Friday, after confronting her and “yelling many homophobic slurs” over her clothing store’s Pride flag, San Bernardino County Sheriff Shannon Dicus said at a news conference Monday. Shortly after fleeing the store, Mag.Pi, Ikeguchi was killed in a shootout with law enforcement.

Officials said Ikeguchi had a history of sharing posts that were critical of the LGBTQ community on social media, including on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

While officials said they have not received confirmation on social media pages belonging to Ikeguchi, an X account that includes Ikeguchi’s full name was created in 2015. Throughout the account’s existence, posts were shared repeatedly using the suspect’s full name and at least one post included a California location, which corresponds with the suspect’s known state of residence.

Many of the account’s earlier tweets include references to Christianity and anti-LGBTQ sentiments. In June 2018, the account rebuked a Mastercard advertisement that featured model Elliott Sailors talking about LGBTQ inclusion.

“LGBT people need to stop asking the world for acceptance, instead they should start accepting Jesus Christ in their hearts and turn away from their false sexual identity that the devil deceived them to be!” the account tweeted,” calling LGBTQ inclusion “a cancer.” 

In August 2021, the account compared the user’s views on LGBTQ rights with his views on abortion, saying, “Abortion is a path to death for the unborn. LGBTQ is a path to death for the once who are already been born.”

In some of the account’s more recent posts — and as anti-LGBTQ rhetoric has become somewhat mainstream among far-right elected officials and media pundits — the anti-LGBTQ comments appeared to become more graphic and violent. 

On June 13, during Pride Month, the account posted a photo of a burning Pride flag with the text: “What to do with the LGBTQP flag?” The “P” added to the LGBTQ initialism appears to refer to “pedophile,” a trope that has resurfaced in anti-LGBTQ rhetoric over the last two years. 

Three days later, the account retweeted and condemned an image of a scissor cutting through the center of the “LGBTIQA+” initialism, which appears to advocate for gay, lesbian and bisexual people dissociating from the transgender and gender-nonconforming communities.

“This tactic is not going to solve anything. Where you are cutting off the legs of the octopus and can grow back another one,” the account wrote. “KILL THE OCTOPUS!! Not just its legs!!!”

More recently, the account retweeted several posts with anti-LGBTQ sentiments from right-wing provocateur Matt Walsh, who has over 2.4 million followers on X, and far-right cable news channel One America News Network, also known as OAN.

The X account isn’t the only social media profile that appears to have been maintained by Ikeguchi. On a Gab account linked to directly by the X account, a user appearing to be Ikeguchi described himself as “Anti-zionism, Anti-jesuits, and Anti-paganism” in his bio, adding “same-sex marriage should be abolished.”

Gab bills itself as a free speech platform and is mostly known for providing a platform for far-right extremists.  

In a pinned Gab post from January 2021, the user appearing to be Ikeguchi wrote, “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!”

Gab did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Gab profile is no longer public, appearing to have been removed within the last several days. It’s typical for social media companies to remove profiles of suspected shooters who have spread hateful rhetoric on their platforms.

But on X, the profile appearing to belong to Ikeguchi along with the anti-LGBTQ tweets were still publicly viewable four days after the shooting, and some users are tagging the company’s owner, Elon Musk, trying to bring attention to the hateful rhetoric on the platform. 

Since taking over the company in October, Musk has criticized the platform’s previous enforcement around hate speech and has reversed a prior rule that forbade misgendering trans people, saying that any type of speech should be allowed on the platform as long as it doesn’t break the law.

Musk has also promoted criticisms of LGBTQ people on his own X profile, where he has 153.9 million followers. In July, for example, he liked a post containing the image of a burning LGBTQ Pride flag. He also promoted a documentary widely considered to be anti-transgender from his personal X account.

In response to a 2020 article alleging that Musk does not support transgender people, Musk tweeted, “I absolutely support trans, but all these pronouns are an esthetic nightmare.”

Twitter representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment.    

Ari Carleton, the daughter of the slain store owner, declined to comment on Ikeguchi’s apparent social media posts, telling NBC News in a direct message on Instagram, “We want this to be about her.”

Laura Ann Carleton, who went by Lauri, was a mother of nine who was “married to the same man for 28 years,” according to her store’s website. Her killing on Friday has prompted an outpouring of grief from LGBTQ activists, lawmakers and celebrities, including actors Jamie Lee Curtis and Kristin Davis.

On Sunday, “Bridesmaids” and “Ghostbusters” director Paul Feig posted a photo of him and Carleton, calling her a “wonderful friend.”

“Anyone using hateful language against the LGBTQ+ community has to realize their words matter, that their words can inspire violence against innocent loving people,” Feig said. “Let’s all keep moving forward with tolerance and love. Let’s not let Lauri’s tragic death be in vain.”

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