William Robert Devereaux, a patent attorney and the District department commander of the American Legion, was shot and killed Wednesday night during an apparent robbery attempt in Meridian Hill Park on 15th Street NW, D.C. police said.

The body of Devereaux, 37, of Van Dorn Street, Alexandria, was found in the park about 8 p.m. Wednesday, according to D.C. police Det. David Forbes. He was pronounced dead at the Washington Hospital Center an hour later.

Forbes said city and U.S. Park Police are continuing their investigation. No arrests have been made, he said.

Devereaux was shot once in the left upper chest, Forbes said.

Investigators declined to disclose who discovered Devereaux's body. They did say, however, that police did not know of any witnesses to the slaying or the robbery attempt that probably preceded it.

Devereaux had worked since October as an attorney with Holman and Stern, a patent law firm with offices at 2401 15th St. NW, across the street from the entrance to the park, the park, known unofficially at Malcolm X. Park, has terraced slopes, Italian and French-influenced gardens and winding promenades.

A secretary at the firm said Devereaux apparently left the office about 6 p.m. on the way to address a dinner meeting of an American Legion post at a downtown restaurant.

Devereaux was elected last June to head the D.C. American Legion department in Washington. It has 44 posts and about 8,000 members. He belonged to the post at the Department of Justice.

The Past Commanders Association of the American Legion has offered a $1,000 reward for the arrest and conviction of Devereaux's killer, a spokesman said.

Devereaux graduated from high school in 1960 in Wisconsin. He had a law degree from George Washington University, as well as a chemistry degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He did postgraduate work in physics at the California Institute of Technology on a National Science fellowship, according to his father Milton W. Devereaux of South Bend, Ind.

Devereaux served three years in the Marine Corps in the late 1960s and was discharged as a corporal. Shortly afterward, he worked as a legislative staff member for Rep. John H. Rousselot (R-Calif.) for about two years.

Devereaux, who was single, also is survived by a brother, Donald, of California.