For LaKita Tolson, a stop at the Culture Club on Saturday was a girls' night out, a chance to extend a good time a little longer.
Instead, the day that began with a girlfriend's baby shower ended with Tolson, a 19-year-old Laurel nursing student with an infant son, lying in a pool of blood, shot after a fight inside the Suitland nightclub spilled into the parking lot.
The shooting occurred after security guards tried to stop a fight by spraying the club with what a witness said was pepper spray, driving patrons into the parking lot. There, Prince George's County police said, an unknown number of suspects retrieved guns from their vehicles and raked the crowd, killing Tolson and injuring two other adults and a 13-year-old.
The Culture Club, on St. Barnabas Road in the Silver Hill area of Suitland, is a storefront go-go club where teens, most of them too young to enter mainstream spots, go to play and hear music. Tolson and two girlfriends went there to hear their favorite go-go band, Skunk Boys 2, as she had twice before.
After the fight broke out about 11 p.m., the friends dragged Tolson, who was choking from the gas, outside to catch her breath. Then they heard gunfire.
"I pulled her to the ground. She was [lying] next to me, shoulder to shoulder," said a 19-year-old friend, who asked not to be identified because she feared for her safety.
Ten minutes later, the woman and Tolson's other friend got up. "I was like, 'Get up, Kita! Kita, get up!' But Kita didn't move. She started bleeding," shot in the head, the friend said.
Tolson was fatally shot at a place that patrons said served no alcohol, where security guards searched teens for weapons and parents of band members were not only welcome but also got in for free. Yet police and neighbors said that despite such rules, teen clubs have a reputation for trouble.
Police are still searching for suspects in the shooting.
The Culture Club was showcasing a half-dozen local bands Saturday night. Latoya Sutherland, 18, is a singer in LSD, the fourth band to take the stage. Her band had just finished playing when she noticed a group of youths pushing and punching one another near the stage.
Security guards sprayed what Sutherland, of Northeast Washington, said was pepper spray, and people ran coughing out the club's front and back doors. Then "we heard gunshots and stuff, and everybody just got down," Sutherland said. The gunfire broke store and car windows, and screaming patrons dropped to the pavement or ran.
Sutherland said shots entered the club, where a security guard and at least one juvenile were hit. Police said a 13-year-old female, a 21-year-old male and a 41-year-old female were wounded, although none of their injuries were life-threatening. They would not provide their names because they are witnesses.
Yesterday, relatives and friends crowded into the Barry Farm apartment of Tolson's mother, Monica Graves, in Southeast Washington. Tolson comes from a large family, with six brothers and four sisters.
Graves, 41, remembered Tolson -- who was studying nursing at Montgomery College while raising her 5-month-old son, Laron -- as energetic and outgoing. She graduated as an honor student last year from Northwestern High School in Adelphi, where she played softball, ran track and performed on a dance squad. In another year, she would have received an associate's degree, Graves said.
"This is just senseless. You see this on television, but you never imagine this will hit close to home," Graves said. "So many kids are killed in senseless violence."
Tolson and her son lived with her father, Larry Tolson Sr., in Laurel. Larry Tolson, 42, said his daughter, who worked at Ben and Jerry's ice cream shop in Silver Spring, often treated him to crab, a favorite meal.
"She was my daughter and my buddy," Tolson said. When Laron was born, "She said, 'Daddy, you have to be there,' " he recalled. "She had me cut the cord."
His daughter, he said, was born at Prince George's Hospital Center in Cheverly and served an internship there. On Saturday, her father said, that is where she died.
Staff writer Clarence Williams contributed to this report.