A gunman, apparently angry because he was thrown out of a topless bar, returned early Sunday morning and fired on startled patrons and employees, killing two people and wounding two others before he was shot dead by a club security guard.
The gunman had "vowed to return and shoot the employees" when he and a friend were told to leave the 1st King topless bar in Gardena after they tried to visit a dancer in her dressing room, Gardena police said. The two men returned two hours later, about 1:30 a.m., Officer Joe Prado said, and one of them shot two security guards at the front door of the bar.
The gunman then walked inside the packed club and fired his semiautomatic handgun at patrons and employees, who dove on the floor and ducked under tables, Prado said. The man was killed by one of the guards he had wounded moments earlier.
Police were searching for the gunman's friend Sunday after he reportedly fled in a car. Names of the gunman and the others killed, a customer and one of the guards, were not released Sunday pending notification of relatives.
Like other topless and striptease clubs, the 1st King bar is often frequented by tough customers, employees said. To prevent trouble, the bar has a metal detector at the front door, armed security guards and bouncers to watch over the dancers.
The white brick building at 14401 S. Western Ave. was closed Sunday. But grisly reminders of the crime were evident: a dried puddle of blood at the front door, where the guards were shot; 16 chalk circles drawn by detectives, where bullet casings had littered the sidewalk and parking lot.
Police said witnesses described the shooter and his friend as gang members. The two reportedly tried to force their way into a dressing room backstage where the dancers change outfits.
"This place is getting worse and worse," said dancer Yolanda Moore, 25, who came to the club after hearing about the shooting from a friend.
The two men were thrown out of the club by one of the bouncers and began to make threats. "They vowed to return and shoot the employees," Prado said. "They apparently meant it."
After shooting the two guards at the door, police said, the gunman walked through the metal detector and apparently began firing indiscriminately. One of the guards, who had been hit in the leg, chased the gunman inside and fatally wounded him. The gunman was pronounced dead at the scene.
The other security guard, along with one of the customers, died a short while later at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, authorities said. A dancer and the wounded guard were reported in stable condition.