HOUSTON (AP) Gunfire erupted outside a Houston night club early Wednesday, killing three people and wounding two others as hundreds of confused concert-goers hit the ground in panic, witnesses and police said.

The shooting occurred in a strip mall parking lot outside the Score's Cabaret strip club and an adjacent night club. The shots rang out right around 3 a.m., just as some 300 people were exiting the night club after a rap concert. By the time police arrived, three people, including one woman investigators described as an innocent bystander, were dead. Two others, including a Houston rapper, were taken to the hospital with gunshot wounds.

Yet the motive of the shooting, and any possible suspects, remained out of reach hours later.

"There were hundreds of people in that parking lot. Somebody must have seen or heard something. We desperately need someone to come forward," said Houston police spokesman Victor Senties.

Senties said police were checking whether the shooting was connected to another incident on Sunday or possibly to another dispute that occurred at another club in November.

Early Wednesday, yellow police tape blocked off a section of the parking lot, preventing dozens of people from reaching their cars. They milled around some still splattered with blood watching investigators process the scene. Homicide investigator Kevin Carr approached a group of about 20 people.

"I don't know who did this at this point, if you know something," Carr said, pausing for a moment. "The girl that was walking through the parking lot, she was completely innocent."

Mike Slaughter, who helped promote and attended the rap concert, said he was just leaving the club when he heard gunshots.

"It sounded like 50 shots," he said. "People were ducking down. It was fast."

Slaughter said he tried to help his friend, who was bleeding from the mouth. Slaughter's white T-shirt, socks and fingernails were stained with blood.

"I didn't see any shooters. It was more than one because there were too many gunshots," another witness, Rick Cook, told KTRK-TV.

A Houston rapper, Trae Tha Truth, was shot in the shoulder when he arrived in the area after performing at another club, his publicist Nancy Byron said. She said the rapper, whose real name is Frazier Thompson III, was likely not a target.

He was treated and released from Memorial Hermann Southwest Hospital, said hospital spokeswoman Lynne Sullivant.


Associated Press writers Diana Heidgerd in Dallas and Ramit Plushnick-Masti in Houston contributed to this report.