There innocent bystanders were wounded yesterday by two gunmen who fired at them during a holdup of the small M&M grocery store at 910 P St. NW, city police reported.
The armed men began firing police said, after a customer in the crowded store hurled a soft drink bottle at them apparently attempting to thwart the robbery.
Two of the victims, a 61-year-old woman who was shot in the stomach and a man who was shot in the neck, were reported to be in serious condition at Howard University Hospital. The third victim, a man who was shot in the leg, was also taken to Howard but was not reported to be seriously injured.
Police would not release the names of the three early last night because relatives had not yet been notified.
The incident occurred about 4:22 p.m. when the store, a neighborhood gathering place, was filled with several customers, police said.
According to police and one witness, the two armed men entered the store, announced the holdup and ordered owner John H. McCauley and the customers to lie on the floor.
McCauley and at least some of the customers complied, according to the witness, who asked not to be identified, but someone in the store threw the bottle at one of the gunmen. They then began firing before running from the store.
"I had my back to the door and I saw this man go around behind the counter and he said, "This is a stickup," the witness said.
Police said 15 witnesses were brought to the police headquarters at 300 Indiana Ave. after the shooting to help them determine what had occurred and to get descriptions of the two holdup men who escaped.
Police said they had not determined whether one of the injured customers had hurled the bottle or not.
The gunmen escaped with no money, police said.
The small store is situated on an alley in a block of rundown houses that has been left untouched so far by the renovation now going on in the once poor and riot-scarred Shaw community.
The store is located across the street from the Shiloh Baptist Church and the offices of the Shaw community group, which advises city planners on the urban renewal project now under way.
Word of the shooting spread quickly in the community. Several residents gathered outside the store to peek in and talk to the witness.