Two 17-year-old far northeast Washington youths were arrested Thursday and charged with the Sept. 10 killing of a D.C. cab driver after detectives spent weeks tracing the gun believed used in the shooting.

After finding a handgun near the scene of the killing, police located a man who said he had been robbed of a similar gun, then questioned dozens of persons in an effort to determine who might have obtained the weapon.

On Thursday, authorities said, police arrested Joseph West of 4106 Gault P1. and Galvin Burton of 903 44th St. NE.

Assistant U.S. Attorney William O'Malley said they were charged with first degree murder in the fatal shooting of Eastern Cab Co. driver Vernon McKinely, 47.

McKinley was fatally shot in his cab in the 700 block of Anacostia Avenue NE about 2 p.m. Sept. 10 as he struggled with two assailants in what police said was an apparent robbery attempt.

The shooting was part of a wave of robberies andd assaults of cab drivers in September that led to an outcry from drivers and industry officials, and prompted police to mount special protective patrols.

Several arrests have been made previously in connection with other incidents.

Within a day or two after McKinley was fatally shot with a .38 caliber handgun, detectives found such a weapon near the scene of the shooting. Detectives Ron Washington and Hosea Dyson of the homicide unit and Lorren Leadman and William Mendez of the sixth district set out to find who owned it.

Police said a major break came when they found a man who reported a similar weapon had been taken from him in a robbery shortly before the killing of the cab driver.

The man - who police declined to identify - was shown the gun found near the shooting scene. Police said he identified it as the one taken from him.

Detectives began questioning youths in the sixth district - where the robbery was reported - in connection with the robbery. By one investigator's estimate, they spoke with about 100 youths.

Prosecutor O'Malley said West and Burton were arraigned as adults, and held under $10,000 bond each after a hearing yesterday in Supreme Court.

West's mother, Joanne West, said last night that her son was a sophomore at Spingarn High School and played right tackle on the junior varsity football team.

A woman who identified herself as Burton's mother said in a telephone interview that he does not attend school and works at odd jobs.