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Shots fired at Toys R Us in Palm Desert; 2 dead

Shots rang out today inside a Toys R Us store in Palm Desert, killing two and causing shoppers at the busy store to scramble for cover.

Palm Desert Councilman Bob Spiegel told The Times that based on early reports, two rival groups shopping at the store had some kind of argument and then shots were fired. Two men were killed in the exchange of gunfire, he said.

Sara Frahm, 25, of La Quinta was shopping for electronic toys at the time of the shooting. She told The Times she heard two women fighting and swearing in an aisle next to her. She said employees went to break up the fight and that all of the sudden a number of people yelled, "He has a gun!" She said she heard six or seven shots.

Mike Stitt of Yucca Valley was shopping with his wife and two children when he saw two women fighting and calling each other names. Both were with men. One of the men pulled out a gun and shot it in the air, then shot the other man in the back, Stitt told The Times.

In a statement, Toys R Us stressed that the shooting appeared to stem from a "personal dispute."

"We are outraged by the act of violence that occurred this afternoon in Palm Desert, CA, and by the fact that anyone would compromise the safety and security of our customers and employees," the statement 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."

Riverside County sheriff and fire officials responded to a report of the shooting at 11:32 a.m. at the toy store in the Desert Crossing Shopping Center at 72314 Highway 111, said Cheri Patterson, information officer for the Riverside County Fire Department and Cal Fire, based in Perris.

Dennis Gutierrez of the Riverside County Sheriff's Department confirmed the fatalities but said detectives were still trying to figure out what happened. He said no arrests have been made and no weapons have been recovered.

"This was an incident between these two individuals," he said.

Details about the shooting were still spotty, but witnesses said the scene at the store and nearby businesses was chaotic.

"We had a bunch of people who came in around noon," Jeff Valare, manager at the World Gym across the street from the Toys R Us, told The Times. "They looked distressed. One woman had an infant in her arms and was crying. They were telling us they heard five or six gunshots. They were inside the Toys R Us and fled out the back."

Glenn Splain, another worker at the gym, told the Associated Press that some Toys R Us customers "were crying, tearing and shaking. ... Some people got into a fight. ... One of the guys here thought it was over a toy, but it got louder and louder and then there were gunshots."

Saul Diaz, who works as an assistant manager at the Jiffy Lube next door to the Toys R Us, said he was speaking with a customer when a stampede of 45 people ran in. Some looked distraught, some were crying.

"They were running fast, straight into the car bays. There was a couple of ladies with little kids, about 3 years [old]. They were all pale. The kids were shouting, 'Mom, I'm scared.' We immediately closed the store," Diaz told The Times. His staff locked the front doors and closed the car bays. "We took everyone into a basement bay, where we keep inventory," he said.

The Desert Sun quoted a Palm Desert city official as saying the shooting might have been caused by bad blood between two groups of shoppers. "There were two groups inside that had issue with each other," said Assistant City Manager Sheila Gilligan. "And the two men inside pulled their weapons and shot each other."

Daniel Watson told KPSP-TV that his wife was shopping at the store and called him on her cellphone about the time the shooting began. "She was scared, you know, and she told me to tell the kids that she loved them," Watson said. He told the station that his wife hid under a clothes rack.

-- Michelle Maltais, Richard Winton, Molly Hennessy-Fiske and Andrew Blankstein

VIDEO: Video of the shooting scene from KESQ-TV.

PHOTOS: Photo gallery of the shooting scene from The Desert Sun.

Comments () | Archives (106)

Of course you need a gun when you shop at Toys R Us.

A Walmart employee in New York was trampled to death today by a stampede of bargain shoppers. Consumer culture at its best.

Little people fight over little things with BIG guns.

Big people fight over BIG things with little pens!

Difference between "animals" and "rich citizens"....

Two people are dead FOREVER for spending their money like lemming cus the local news says everybody is shopping today. Prices are only going to go down before and after christmas. is it that important to get a piece of chineese made crap?. Those two guys are in the morgue at the hospital on their way to the county's morgue. Cold and starting to stiffin' up. Their pupils are wide and the blackness of the pupil staires into space. where is their souls at? Are they at the gates of the home of God? Or ar they in the fire pits of hell?---? What is going on? This is just too much---death is AMERICA

What was SARAH PALIN doing moosehunting in Toys-R-Us???

All this over material things being sold at a lower price. People need to get a life. How about if we all bought NOTHING for Christmas and taught everyone that the holiday is NOT about presents but about the BIRTH OF JESUS, and being with the ones you love. And if your kids ask why did they get anything, tell them straight up, YOU CAN'T ALWAYS GET WHAT YOU WANT, THAT'S THE WAY LIFE IS. They need to learn that at a young age, so they won't be angry and miserable when they grow up and don't get what they want. Even if you do get your kids something, but it's not exactly what they want, same thing applies. Tell them that Santa can only do so much. What matters is, not what you give or get, but the thought that goes with it. If I got nothing, I would not care, I never have, because I got what is most important to me, my health, and my family.

What is the point of hurting people to get the latest games? I agree with Jackington, our country is a mess.

is 'black friday' a racial term?

Phew... thank God that people are allowed to carry guns in this country. I'd hate to think how unsafe I'd feel if people weren't allowed to arm themselves while going out in public.

Geez. At least in World War I they had a Christmas truce.

another reason why the desert area should be avoided. the old days of palm springs are long gone. just another gang area now.

richard stanke,another crybaby repub...get over it

"bad blood between two groups of shoppers" --- whomever said this, should be fired from whatever they do, for being an absolute politically correct idiot. --- And yes, as someone above noted, this and the Walmart deadly stampede, have a definite Third-World quality.

Posted by Richard Stanke: If only Barrack Obama was there, he could bring the dead back to life and make sure everyone gets a free toy at the store's expense.

And if George Bandar Bush were there he could declare Mission Accomplished and surge on over to KBR Us.

It's shame there are people who choose to take the fault of others and displace them onto Plresident Obama. Mr. Richard Shanke is clearly an individual with issues regarding the outcome of the election. A poor individual who can not focus on the issue at hand, this explain in part why you and other will not work to better our nation. Millions more American believe along with President Elect Obama we can change our country for the good. Yes we can!

"gun and carry permits?" That would be a hilarious scene. A bunch of people pulling out their guns to make it a good old fashion shoot out. It'll be like Black Hawk down, a true American fantasy come true. Or wet dream. It'll be like playing PS3, CoD4; the shoot out to rescue the hostages in the building. Or like what they do on the CIS ... finding out who caused the shooting for the toy or drug deal? Great story line. I can see a cool script coming out of this.
All joking a side will they really allow the inventory to run out? Will that be in the best interest of the business?
People in other country fight over rice, flour, and water. We fight over plastic junk.

is this from the "onion"? I thought California had strict gun control laws! /sarcasm

Good on both of 'em.

Took each other out of the gene pool.

I'm gonna go out on a limb and guess the shooters might have been bald-headed hispanic males. Does that make me a racist? And what if I'm right? All I know is when I see a tattooed bald-headed hispanic male nowadays, I cross the street. I wouldn't hire one for a job and I wouldn't allow one in my house. And if that makes me racist, so be it.

Come to me my children...come to me. I know that I will give a lot of awards in the next few months

Ahh it's great to see American humor still exists. As an Aussie in LA I was getting worried you guys could never laugh at your fellow countrymen's own stupidity like we do.


If only George Bush had been there, he could have taken credit for "liberating" the Black Friday shoppers.

In the ever expanding hedonsitic greed for a bargain, yet another Black Friday tragedy occurs. This incident only reinforces the world's view that we are a violent and ill country who is going into decline. What a world. Jesus weeps for the USA.

Considering the number of people that find it exciting to go shopping on black friday, it is surprising that there are not more stories like this. It is a surprise there are not more instances of this NOT on holidays as well.

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