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The Pride flag killer was a radicalized Christian nationalist terrorist
Steeped in the MAGA, QAnon and Christian extremist movements, he shot and killed California store owner Laura Ann Carleton after disparaging her rainbow flag.
Pinned tweet on X by the man police say shot and killed a Lake Arrowhead, California shop owner after disparaging a Pride flag she had hanging in front of her clothing shop
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Over the weekend, we saw the bloody terror of the Christian nationalist crusade and the MAGA movement. A man now identified as 27-year-old Travis Ikeguchi shot and killed a 66-year-old shop owner, former fashion executive, and mother of nine.
Ikeguchi murdered Laura Ann Carleton, who owned the Mag.Pi clothing store in Cedar Glen, after he made "several disparaging remarks about a rainbow flag" that stood outside Carleton's store, according to San Bernadino County sheriff’s deputies. Carleton was a longtime ally of the LGBTQ community and was proud to have the flag hanging, according to friends who posted tributes on Instagram.
Police shot and killed Ikeguchi, also from Cedar Glen, in a confrontation after they found him not far from the shop. Almost immediately, MAGA trolls on X, formerly known as Twitter, challenged those who pointed to GOP politicians and right-wing extremists promoting anti-LGBTQ rhetoric that vilified the Pride flag as responsible for this violence.
A few of them responded to my tweets as well, promoting a conspiracy theory. The police had not yet identified the killer. The trolls were circulating grotesque rumors that Carleton was killed by her brother, clearly trying to deflect from the obvious and create an alternative reality. But late yesterday, police did in fact name the killer, who had his own X account chock full of hate and conspiracy theories.
It proves, once again, that the MAGA movement, the Christian nationalists, Ron DeSantis and his "Don’t Say Gay" crusade, online extremists like Matt Walsh and Ben Shapiro who attack the Pride flag, and many others are responsible for inspiring violence and ultimately murder.
The killer trafficked in all of their hate—his pinned tweet, posted in June, is an image of a Pride flag in flames—promoting tweets like this one from the Trumpist Gateway Pundit celebrating bans on Pride flags.
He promoted himself as “pro-life”—railing against abortion and LGBTQ people, all in the name of God— and then went out and engaged in cold-blooded murder.
The killer retweeted tweets of some of the most extreme and dangerous online influencers who've promoted vandalism against the Pride flag and denounced those individuals and companies that celebrate them. In recent months, we’ve seen violent attacks on Pride flags all across the country. Establishments were vandalized, and Pride flags were often burned. Here’s a report in USA Today from June:
Police in Nebraska are investigating the burning of a gay Pride flag as a hate crime in the latest of a rash of recent attacks on the LGBTQ+ community believed to be driven in part by online challenges.
In the past week alone, Pride flags have been stolen, slashed or burned in at least five states, including California, Utah, Arizona, Nebraska and Pennsylvania. That’s on top of similar incidents in California and New York in May, including a man that defecated on a pride flag in Manhattan.
And of course, we saw the online attacks on businesses like Bud Light and Target, where Pride merchandise was vandalized, amid the promotion of these assaults by online extremists. Ikeguchi was clearly following these prominent online influencers and hatemongers, retweeting their calls to action, such those of The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh.
Ikeguchi’s feed is filled with memes attacking President Biden, conspiracy theories about Hunter Biden, retweets of RFK Jr.’s anti-vax lies, QAnon memes and mantras, and retweets of praise for Governor Ron DeSantis, including one lauding him as a politician who doesn’t "dance with evil."
And he of course amplified DeSantis’ and the right’s groomer lies about LGBTQ people, in particular attacking the vile right-wing astroturf group "Gays Against Groomers," clearly opining that you can’t be gay and not be a "groomer.”
The killer did have a few tweets that are critical of Donald Trump, which some in MAGA have already latched onto as some sort of proof that he’s not MAGA or a right-wing extremist. But his criticism of Trump was, basically, for not being extreme enough. Specifically, he appears to have turned on Trump for being a fake Christian and not a true evangelical warrior (perhaps influenced by DeSantis's virulently homophobic videos that have ludicrously claimed Trump is too gay-friendly).
On this, Ikeguchi was following the rhetoric of Tom Hoefling, a radical Christian nationalist Republican who served as political director for the far-right extremist and viciously homophobic Alan Keyes during his runs for the GOP presidential nomination in the ‘90s and the aughts. The killer retweeted Hoefling quite a bit.
But that does not mean that Ikeguchi was not a product of Trump. In fact, of the 19 accounts he followed on Twitter, Trump was his first follow.
This religious extremist and murderer who engaged in a vicious hate crime was indeed a product of the MAGA movement, which Trump created, and the QAnon and Christian nationalist movements, which Trump embraces.
His warped, hateful views were given permission to flourish by Trump, and have been allowed to fester by the GOP, whose presidential candidates like DeSantis fan the flames. They are all responsible for the killing of Laura Anne Carleton, as well as all of the hate-inspired violence we’ve seen in recent years, and, sadly, that which is yet to come.