California law enforcement officers searched for a gunman early Friday after one man was killed and two others wounded in a parking lot near a Sacramento community college campus, officials said.

The suspect fled the scene after the shooting near a baseball field Thursday afternoon, and was not found in a sweep of the campus and surrounding neighborhood, Sacrament police Sgt. Doug Morse said.

One victim was declared dead at the scene, and another was hospitalized and expected to survive. The third victim was only grazed by the bullet and was being questioned by investigators, authorities said.

The shooting started as a verbal dispute between the group of men, one of whom pulled out a gun and fired, said Dustin Poore of Los Rios police, who patrol Sacramento City College.

"A preliminary investigation revealed that a physical altercation between two groups of subjects, further escalated when a knife and gun were produced by the involved parties. It is believed that the victim of the fatal shooting was involved in the altercation," police said in a news release late Thursday. "The involvement of gang activity is not being ruled out."

All three of the victims were students at the school. It was unclear what connection, if any, the gunman had to the college.

The suspect is said to be a male Pacific Islander wearing a white T-shirt and cargo shorts. He ran from the scene and remained at large hours later.

The campus was on lockdown for about two hours before police officers had cleared all the buildings and allowed students and staff to leave, Morse said.

Police descended from all directions on campus shortly after the gunfire broke out, and students told to stay in their classrooms and lock the door were filled with fear.

"My stomach dropped," student Lars Beesom told KCRA-TV. "It was definitely really, really scary, but we all stayed calm.

Beesom added, "It's school. It's supposed to be a good environment, and you don't want to be scared here."

Jackie Flores, 50, who lives across the street from the parking lot, said she heard four or five shots fired. "It all happened so fast," she told the Sacramento Bee.

Classes were in session at the two-year college in central Sacramento with an enrollment of about 25,000. The fall semester began Aug. 22.

The corner of campus where the shooting occurred is surrounded by strip malls with chain restaurants on one side and a golf course on the other.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.