A convicted drug dealer, scheduled to appear to court in 10 days to face new-drug-selling charges, was shot to death in "execution style" yesterday afternoon in his seventh-floor apartment at 3636 16th St. NW. D.C. police reported.

Police said Ralph L. Payne, 37, was shot once in the left chest at about 12.45 p.m. by two men who waited outside with drawn guns for Payne to open the apartment door.

The men forced Payne back into the apartment, talked to him briefly, and began finishing with him, police said.

After a brief struggle with Payne, who stood 6 feet 6 and weighed 230 pounds, one assailant pulled Payne's sports jacket around his waist, pinning his arms to his side, police said.

After ordering Payne's girl friend, who also was in the apartment, to place a pillow over her head, the men shot Payne, police said.

Payne was described by police as "a fairly active (drug) dealer" in the area of 14th and T Streets NW. Known as "Big Ralph" in that area. Payne had two convictions for selling drugs and had been arrested at least 12 times for narcotics-related offenses, detectives said.

According to residents of the huge Woodner apartment building, a woman ran screaming from Payne's apartment after the shooting. She pounded on several doors until someone answered and let her use a telephone to alert police, neighbors said.

"She kept saying, 'Lord he's dead. I think he's dead,'" said the neighbor whose telephone was used and who asked not to be identified.

The neighbor said the woman then ran back to the apartment where she knelt over Payne's body, which lay in the doorway, and began screaming again before police arrived.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Schaars said Payne was scheduled to appear before U.S. District Court Judge Gerhard A. Gesell to face charges of selling heroin.

Despite Payne's two prior drug-selling convictions, he was free on conditional release because he met bail bond requirements by always appearing at his trials and having relatives in the Washington area.

Police said last night that they still are seeking two suspects in the shooting.