Officers had earlier said they were responding to “reports of shots fired with multiple victims down” at Gable House Bowl in Torrance, a coastal city about 20 miles from Los Angeles, shortly before midnight on Friday.
Torrance Police Department urged people to “stay away from the area”.
Officers said three men died at the scene, while two of the four men injured had been taken to hospital. The remaining pair had sought medical attention themselves.
It is not yet known how seriously they were hurt.
The police said in a statement: “Investigators are currently conducting a follow-up investigation, and are working to identify the suspect(s) involved.”
The authorities have not released details about what led to the shooting, but witnesses said it followed mass brawl between two large groups.
Wes Hamad, a 29-year-old Torrance resident, was at the bowling alley with his 13-year-old niece and cousin when he saw a “huge fight” break out.
Mr Hamad said the brawl, which lasted about five minutes, blocked the entrance of the bowling alley and escalated into “complete chaos”.
“I grabbed my niece and started running towards the far end of the bowling alley,” he said. “As we were running, we heard 15 shots.”
As he was leaving, Mr Hamad said he saw a woman weeping over a man who was riddled with gunshot wounds in his head and neck.
Jesus Perez of San Pedro, who was inside during the shooting, told the Los Angeles Times: “We just ran into the bar and we just took cover because after the fight we heard ‘pop pop’.”
After taking cover for 15 minutes, he said a security guard had escorted him out the back.
Brandon Tyre, 31, who was inside celebrating a friend’s birthday, had been bowling when the fight broke out, followed by gunshots.
His brother had been hit in the chest and he was waiting to hear about his condition.
One man, who declined to give his name, said: “There was a fight and then we heard nine gunshots.”
Staff at Gable House Bowl, who could not give their names because they were not allowed to speak to the media, told the LA Times that trouble was rare at the venue, which was popular with families celebrating birthday parties.
The paper reported people outside the bowling alley were visibly shaken with some men vomiting and women crying and screaming.
Anxious family members attempted to cross the police cordon to find out if their relatives were OK.
Gable House Bowl is described on its website as a gaming venue that offers bowling, laser tag and a full arcade.
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