Antoine Gardiner was waiting for a red light on Lancaster Avenue by North 59th Street on Thursday afternoon when he heard it: "Pop, pop, pop."

"As I heard the gunshots, I looked to the right, I see this kid shooting like crazy into a crowd and the crowd was a bunch of kids. So the kids start running, scattering all over the place," said Gardiner, of Villanova, who owns a property-management company.

"My first instinct was just, 'Let me get the hell out of here.' "

As Gardiner called 911, a youth ran up to his pickup truck and shouted that he had been hit, but friends quickly dragged him to safety. Everyone ran.

"But as the light changed, I looked again. I noticed there was a kid hunched over all by himself."

Gardiner stopped thinking, he said, and began moving. He turned the corner and pulled up on 59th Street on the other side of Tustin Playground.

Two other youths ran up to help as Gardiner scooped up 17-year-old Bernard Jamal Scott and put him in the backseat of his truck, next to a baseball bat, trophies, and other athletic equipment.

The two youths slammed the door, and Gardiner took off. He didn't stop driving the 1.3 miles west on Lancaster Avenue until he reached Lankenau Hospital.

"I ran every stop sign, every light," he said. "If somebody stopped at the light, I would have rammed them. I wasn't going to stop."

Blasting his horn, Gardiner kept looking back at Scott while dodging traffic.

"Hold on, young buck, hold on, young fellow," Gardiner told Scott, whose name he did not know at the time. "Just hold on, you're going to be OK, just hold on, keep breathing."

Scott, who was shot in the stomach, couldn't respond. He was groaning loudly, Gardiner said, breathing heavily, and choking on blood.

Gardiner ran into the hospital, where, he says, people didn't move fast enough. He grabbed a gurney, and a security guard helped him put the boy on it.

Hours later, a reporter told him that Scott had died in the hospital. A popular sophomore at Overbrook High School, Scott was part of the crowd of about 50 students who were on the playground when a one-on-one fight turned deadly with guns pulled, police said. Two others were wounded, including a suspected gunman.

Police on Saturday held two for questioning. Sources identified them as Jaquan Jordan, 20, and Stanley Postell, 18. Neither of the two men in custody, nor the wounded boy, are students at the high school. Police also recovered a gun Saturday near the ball field and planned to run tests to determine whether it was involved in the shooting.

When Gardiner learned Scott had died, he said, he sat in his car "and cried like a baby." He called the family, hoping the media had it wrong.

"I'm crying and I'm apologizing to the family," Gardiner said Saturday. "I said, 'I'm sorry, I wouldn't lie to you, I didn't stop at any lights, I didn't stop at any stop signs. I'm sorry, I don't know what I could have done.' "

But the question of whether he could have driven to the hospital any faster continues to haunt him, Gardiner said, and he has had trouble sleeping. Three images of the boy keep running through his brain: crumpled on the field, groaning in pain in the backseat, and being pushed away on a gurney.

Gardiner, 40, rejects the praise of those who call him a hero for his quick action. Instead of pride, Gardiner said, he feels guilt for not getting Scott to the hospital in time, not doing more in the community, and for not being able to keep his promise to the boy.

"It makes me feel like I gave him false hope, like I lied to him in a sense," Gardiner said. "I thought, 'Damn, I did it. I got him here.' And then I found out he didn't make it."

The death of Scott, who lived a block from Gardiner's childhood home, has shaken him.

A recent investigative report on unpaid property taxes in Philadelphia revealed that Gardiner and his company, Bizness As Usual, owed $471,000 in back taxes on 58 properties, many of which are rentals. Gardiner disputes the city's accounting and said on Saturday that he had since paid about half of the back taxes.

Gardiner pledged Saturday to devote time and energy to working with young people in the community, having seen the local feuding between the Overbrook and Wynnefield neighborhoods even when he was growing up.

"I'm looking to make a difference now. That shook me up and that touched me so much," Gardiner said. "Bernard Scott is going to be embedded in my heart and my mind for the rest of my life."

Contact Jonathan Lai at 856-779-3220, jlai@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @elaijuh.
Inquirer staff writers Mike Newall and Kristen A. Graham contributed to this article.