A 31-year old man was shot and killed by a Fairfax County police officer early Sunday as he lunged at the officer with a butcher knife following a wild rampage in the apartment of his estranged wife. The dispute awoke dozens of neighbors and caused the evacuation of a three story building, police said.

County police identified the dead man as James H. English, 31, and said he had died from a single shot to the right side of his chest. He was pronounced dead on arrival at Mont-Vernon Hospital at 3:18 a.m. Sunday.

Police said English had entered the basement-level garden apartment at 4507 Colony Court in the Woodlawn section of Fairfax County through a window shortly after 2 a.m. Once inside, he severely beat up a male friend of his wife, injured a 17-year-old male baby sitter who was sleeping on a couch nearby, then started to throw furnishings out the window.

The Englishes' two small children also were in the apartment but were not injured although English held them as hostages for a time, police said.

Police said they did not have an address for English because he had lived with several relatives and friends in the area since he separated from his wife almost two years ago. English, an ironworker, was described by one neighbor as "a tight person, a loner. Very quiet. He wouldn't say very much."

English's brother, Michael, said yesterday he could not understand why the police had not used chemical sprays to disable English. Michael English said he will ask his attorney to investigate the matter.

Gordon R. Reynolds, who lives in an apartment next to Mrs. English's, said he was awakened by the sound of breaking glass. "It kept intensifying," he recalled. "The next thing you know there was more glass breaking, more people screaming."

Reynolds said that a few moments later Mrs. English, who had escaped from her apartment while her husband was struggling with the baby sitter, came running into his apartment in a state of hysteria.

Reynolds said that he told his wife to call the police and instructed Mrs. English to keep silent so her husband would not hear her. Reynolds said in an interview yesterday that Mrs. English had told him that her husband had entered the apartment armed with a gun and that she had awakened when he had started beating her friend, whom police refused to identify. When English went after the baby sitter, Mrs. English escaped through the front door.

Fairfax County police arrived at the scene at about 2:23 a.m., and Mrs. English ran out to meet them with the unidentified baby sitter, who also had escaped the apartment. Mrs. English's friend also managed to escape, apparently through a window, according to witnesses.

Police and neighbors said English locked himself in the house with the two children as police arrived and started to throw furniture out the window. Fairfax County police spokeswoman Betty Bosarge said the apartment had been "virtually destroyed."

Bosarge said English had first refused to release the children and at one point appeared at the front door of the apartment with his 4-year-old daughter and a butcher knife he had gotten from the kitchen.

Bosarge said that at no time had English threatened to hurt his children and a few moments after coming to the door with the girl he let her go.

Reynolds said that the child turned to her father before leaving the apartment and asked him if he, too, was coming out. "The only way I'm coming out is dead." Reynolds said English had replied.

Shortly afterward, the 5-year old boy ran out the front door to safety while English talked to several policemen who were trying to persuade him to give himself up, according to the police account of the incident.

English finally was persuaded to leave the building but did so while grasping the knife on one hand, police said. For the next 20 minutes the police, their guns drawn, and English, holding the knife, negotiated in front of about 60 neighbors who had been evacuted from the building.

"Then all of a sudden he just lunged at Graves with the knife," Bosarge said in a reference to Officer Douglas M. Graves. When English kept coming, Graves fired the fatal shot. Officer Graves has been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation of the incident, police said.