Two men were shot and killed Friday inside a Toys R Us in Palm Desert, Calif., during a confrontation apparently involving rival groups, city officials said.
Palm Desert Councilman Jim Ferguson said police told him two men with handguns shot and killed each other. Ferguson said he asked police whether the incident was a dispute over a toy or whether it was gang-related. He said police told him they were not going to release further details until the victims' relatives were notified.
"I think the obvious question everyone has is who takes loaded weapons into a Toys R Us?" he said. "I doubt it was the casual holiday shopper."
City spokeswoman Sheila Gilligan said police told her the shooting broke out between "two groups of individuals that have a dispute with each other."
Riverside County sheriff's Sgt. Dennis Gutierrez said Palm Desert police got a call saying shots had been fired inside the store around 11:35 a.m.
Gutierrez confirmed there was a fight but said it was not over a toy.
He released little information at a news conference five hours after the shooting but emphasized there were no outstanding suspects and that no one was arrested. Detectives were reviewing security video and interviewing witnesses, he said.
The incident occurred near the front of the store in the check-out area. Gutierrez said
Witnesses are calling the incident a murder-suicide, but that could not be immediately confirmed.
Bob Friedland, public relations manager for Toys R Us said the company is working closely with local law enforcement to determine the specific details of what happened at the store.
"We are outraged by the act of violence that occurred...and by the fact that anyone would compromise the safety and security of our customers and employees," Friedland said. "Our understanding is that this act seems to have been the result of a personal dispute between the individuals involved. Therefore, it would be inaccurate to associate the events of today with Black Friday."
Shopper Sarah Pacia, of Cathedral City, Calif., told The Desert Sun that she was browsing through the coloring books in the store with her two young sons, ages 4 and 6, when she heard a ruckus coming from the next aisle.
At first, she thought it was a Black Friday scuffle over a toy on sale, the paper reported. Then she heard three or four shots ring out. Store employees quickly escorted her outside.
She said her terrified 4-year-old son Jayden clung to her leg and told her that he didn't want to die.
"This is Toys R Us. There are kids shopping in there," Pacia told the Sun.
Immediately after the shooting, about 20 people rushed into the World Gym across the street from Toys 'R' Us, the gym's assistant manager Glenn Splain told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.
"They were crying, tearing and shaking," Splain said, adding that one woman came in cradling a baby.
"Some people got into a fight," said Splain, who spoke with some of the customers. "One of the guys here thought it was over a toy but it got louder and louder and then there were gunshots."
Palm Desert is about two hours southeast of Los Angeles.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.