City Councilman Jim Ferguson says police have told him that the victims were two men with handguns who shot each other.
The councilman says his question is: who takes a loaded gun into a toy store. And his answer is: "I doubt it was the casual holiday shopper." Authorities are still investigating but indicate the shooting may have been gang related.
One woman says she was in the store looking at coloring books with her two young boys when there was a commotion in the next aisle. She thought it was a scramble for a sale, then heard gunshots. She says her four-year-old grabbed her leg and said he didn't want to die.
The violence erupted on the traditional post-Thanksgiving start of the holiday shopping surge, but accounts of what occurred inside the store were fragmentary or second hand and it was not clear whether it involved any shopping frenzy.
The Palm Desert Police Department received calls of shots fired around 11:35 a.m., Riverside County sheriff's Sgt. Dennis Gutierrez said. He said officers were still investigating what prompted the gunshots.
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."
Sarah Pacia of Cathedral City told The Desert Sun newspaper she was in the store with her two boys, ages 4 and 6, looking at coloring books when she heard a commotion in the next aisle. She thought it was people rushing to get a sale item. Then she heard three or four shots.
She said she froze, and store employees calmly escorted her out of the store.
"This is Toys "R" Us. There are kids shopping in there," Pacia said. Her son Jayden, 4, was clinging to her leg. He told her he didn't want to die, she said.
Toys "R" Us officials did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
Palm Desert is about 120 miles east of Los Angeles.