Debunked: Man Who Murdered California Store Owner Over Gay Pride Flag Was Not Her Brother
You’ll be shocked to learn the suspect is actually a homophobic Matt Walsh fan.
THIS WEEKEND, AMERICA WAS HORRIFIED by the story of Lauri Carleton, a California boutique owner and mother of nine, who was shot in her store by a man over the display of a gay pride flag.
When I tweeted a link to her store for those who might want to support her family, I began to receive replies from blue-check troll accounts saying that this was not, in fact, a hate crime because Carleton was murdered by her brother. They claimed the story was “not what it was made out to be.”
This pushback was premised on an article posted by a website called “Freshers Live,” which appears to run Google search-bait pegged to news events and is riddled with ads for removing belly fat and skin tags. The “article” about Carleton said:
The individual responsible for this act was reportedly none other than her own brother, a shocking revelation that only compounds the sorrow surrounding the event. Their confrontation, fueled by his objection to the flag, escalated into a horrifying act of violence that claimed Lauri's life.
Immediately people looking at this site should’ve noticed the red flags. For starters, the Freshers website looks like the kind of place where you are likely to have your identity stolen by a Russian mail-order husband. Then there is the fact that the victim was 66 years old and the police had confirmed that the suspect’s age was 27—which would be a remarkably large age gap for purported siblings. Most tellingly, witnesses on the scene reported that the suspect “tore down a pride flag and shouted homophobic slurs before shooting.”
Seems like an open-and-shut case.
But this didn’t stop people like Jonathan Zachreson from spreading the viral misinformation. Zachreson, whose X bio indicates he is a Roseville City School Board member, supports ReopenCA Schools & ProtectKidsCA, and is the founder of Students First California. He attacked Gavin Newsom and State Senator Scott Wiener in a series of posts arguing that this murder was not a hate crime. Apparently Zachreson’s desire to “protect children” does not extend to the children of hate crime victims.
A search for “Carleton brother” on Twitter reveals multitudinous other examples of users echoing these claims in response to Democratic politicians and media figures reporting on Carleton’s murder and commemorating her life.
Lauri Carleton’s friend, the director Paul Feig, responded to the trolls replying to him on this point:
The actual suspect, who has since been named by police, was 27-year-old Travis Ikeguchi. He is not related to Carleton. Instead, he is what you might expect.
Ikeguchi’s social media feed is littered with anti-gay posts. He pinned a picture of the rainbow flag engulfed in flames, posted that people should “stop compromising on this LGBT dictatorship,” and frequently reposted right-wing media figures such as Dinesh D’Souza and Matt Walsh. Shocker.
This is just the latest example of Elon Musk’s changes to X promoting accounts that spread harmful and false information after tragedies. Don’t be fooled. And don’t let them get away with it.