Virgil deputized his brothers and Holliday and they set off for the vacant lot.
"Throw up your hands," shouted Virgil as they reached the alleyway's entrance. "I mean to disarm you."
There was a pause, and the click-click of a gun – or guns – being cocked.
"Hold on, I don't want that!" shouted Virgil, but it was too late.
There were two shots fired simultaneously – it is uncertain by whom – and then, as Wyatt later testified, "the fight then became general."
Ironically, Ike Clanton, who had instigated the confrontation, fled the scene, grabbing Wyatt and screaming that he was unarmed.
"The fight has commenced," snarled Earp. "Get to fighting or get away." Clanton promptly took off, as did another cowboy, Billy Claiborne.
Within seconds, two of the cowboys – Tom McLaury and Billy Clanton – lay mortally wounded, Virgil Earp had been shot in the calf, and Morgan Earp shot through the shoulder blades. A third cowboy, Frank McLaury, shot in the stomach, staggered into Fremont Street and leveled his gun at Holliday.