Trouble had been brewing before closing time early Wednesday morning at San Bernardino's Stingers Bar and Nightclub, a well-known biker hangout in an industrial park near the crossing of the 215 and 10 freeways.
Members of the Deuces motorcycle club were inside on Taco Tuesday, and a rival group tried to enter. Police said they had already been called to the nightclub to ask the rival group to leave.
As patrons spilled into the parking lot about 1:45 a.m., pandemonium ensued. Witnesses said 20 to 30 shots rang out, cars and motorcycles collided as people fled, and victims began to fall.
"People were screaming, 'I'm hit! I'm hit!' right in front of the door," one witness said.
A Deuces member he described as Lil' Dice hobbled back inside, apparently wounded.
"He ran back inside to get protection. He was limping and trying to get to the back door," he said. "A woman was shot too."
Moments later, three blocks northeast, more shots rang out at an Arco service station at East Redlands Boulevard and Waterman Avenue, according to police. All told, the two shootings left two people dead and five wounded, two of them in "extremely critical condition," said San Bernardino Police Lt. Rich Lawhead.
All were affiliated with the Deuces, he said.
The two slain victims were identified Wenesday night as Petetrial Michael Scott and Jerry Jamale Jackson, both of San Bernardino. Their ages were not immediately available.
Authorities said they were still trying to sort out what started the melee, and who fired the shots.
"I have no idea what was said," Lawhead said. "Sometimes all it takes is a word to get it started."
The witness said the club was packed with people attending a comedy show and dancing when he arrived just after 1 a.m.
But as patrons filed out the door, the gun battle began, said the witness, who said he did not want to reveal his name because he was still dealing with authorities.
Tensions flared anew, hours later, at Loma Linda University Medical Center, where about 75 people, many of them members of the bike group, gathered to learn the fate of relatives and friends.
"They were upset after the coroner gave them the news," said Cindy Bachman, a spokeswoman for the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department.
The group became combative when hospital employees asked them to remain outside, and officers had to intervene, Bachman said.
One person threw hot coffee on a San Bernardino police detective, she said.
By late morning, the emergency room was empty, save for a small huddled group, some of them with leather jackets that read "Deuces."
"My brother died and they won't let us see him and I don't know why," one man said.
"My brother died," said Elgie Scott. "I can't believe my damn brother…. This is unreal. This is so unreal. They won't let us on the second floor."
Moments later, Scott's sister-in-law walked into the emergency room.
"Why? Why?" she cried out, sobbing. "I want to see him! No, please. Please!"
About 9 a.m., a group of motorcyclists rumbled down Campus Street, their thundering bikes honking at family members and friends trickling out of the hospital.
Among them was Edward Kelly, who said his friend "AWOL," also called Lil' Dice, was killed in the shootings.
Kelly said he was unsure if any rival motorcycle clubs had a hand in the violence.
A lowrider himself, he rode with the Deuces only a few times.
"They ain't no gangbangers," he said.
Violent crime in San Bernardino has been on an uptick in the last year and the homicide rate has been firmly pinned in the mid-40s in recent years.
Wednesday's incident was the second shooting in less than five years involving the African American motorcycle group, which has had a contentious history with city officials, law enforcement and neighbors of their former headquarters in Highland, according to documents and witnesses.
City records show there were multiple complaints of loud music, drug use, drinking and public urination around the facility, which is flanked by empty lots.
On July 23, 2010, two men were shot while apparently trying to enter a club event in the building, according to minutes of a Planning Commission meeting that ended with revocation of the group's event permit.
At the time, members said the shooting did not occur on their property.
No arrests were made there, according to documents.
The building now houses the Iglesia Cristiana Rios De Vida congregation.
Nearby residents said they had bitter memories of the motorcycle club's stay.
Roberto Reyes remembers the months he spent calling the police and city officials about the loud motorcycle group that would congregate across the street from his one-story house.
It's been three years since the motorcycle group left, he said, and the neighborhood is better for it.
"There were gangs," Reyes, 57, said as he took a break from fixing his black Ford truck.
The bikers would rev their motorcycles at 3 a.m., keeping him awake, he said.
Another resident, who would identify himself only as Larry C. out of fear of retaliation, said he was glad when the motorcycle club left.
"They completely took over the street. It was like a promenade and they had no respect for the neighborhood," he said.
"The church is the greatest thing that happened here," he added.
Times staff writer Joseph Serna contributed to this report.