“They weren’t gang members,” says Cristina Gomez, firmly. “They were good guys. They all had jobs.”

Gomez, a kind-faced woman with brilliant blonde hair and the dramatically painted eyebrows of a 40s starlet, is the owner of El Tin Tan and knew the men as regulars. They had just finished playing a game of pool, she said, and stepped outside to go home.

Last night at around 11:05, five men were shot outside El Tin Tan. According to police, the gunmen were two men in their early 20s, driving a red late-model TransAm. The car was seen speeding away north on Julian toward 14th. “That’s where they always run to,” says Gomez, “because it’s the darkest street. I don’t know why they don’t put in lighting there.”

All five men survived the shooting, but one remains in critical condition.

“Well, look at that,” says Gomez’s son, Dave. He’s holding a squashed bullet, found on the sidewalk outside. The dim light glints off the copper casing.

Behind the two, women bustle in the bar’s kitchen, getting ready for the morning shift. A photograph of Pope John Paul II hangs on one wall, looking benevolently in the direction of a Mayan disc, several soccer jerseys and a painting of a Pre-Raphaelite couple looking mushily at one another. A man and a woman arrive, order two shots, and open up their breakfast menus. Someone has taken down the sign that was taped on the front door when Gomez arrived this morning, a sheet of paper stuck up with blue painter’s tape, on which someone had scrawled “Close this Scuz-hole.”

Outside the bar at opening this morning, the usual Corona pail for cigarette butts, and a hand-written sign.

“They say there were 50 or 60 shots, at least,” says Gomez. “I heard there were casings all over the street.”

Are so many shots possible with a handgun? According to Officer Albie Esparza, yes. Police believe that both men in the car were shooting, and may also have been using illegal magazine clips, like those used in the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, Arizona. Such clips can hold 30 rounds. According to the analysis done by police so far, the spent cartridges are from a handgun.

“We saw about the shooting on the news this morning,” says the woman, looking over her menu. Both of them live nearby, and still came in for breakfast. “This is more like the Mission of 10 years ago,” says the man. “Not now.”

Outside, an enormous white ABC News van with a person bent over a laptop and a foil-wrapped burrito on the dashboard is joined by two others.

Why these men? Why here? Gomez speculates that the shooting was part of a gang initiation. “I never walk around this place at night,” she says, sighing. “I live in South San Francisco. Where it’s quiet. Near the cemetery.”

“You can’t,” she says, “change the streets.”

NOTE: The kind folks at Mission Mission pointed out this article we published in 2009, which covers El Tin Tan’s role as a legendary meeting place for newly arrived immigrants from Mexico.