In what police described as a "senseless" killing an elderly, longtime resident of Southeast Washington yesterday was shot to death during an apparent robbery attempt in front of his home.

Police said that Unit F. Crossley, 72, was about to step into their car at 1843 S. St. and his wife Dallas, also 11:30 a.m. when a man walked up behind them and announced a holdup. When Crossley turned to face the man, his attacker shot him in the chest at point-blank range, and according to a witness, walked calmly away without taking anything from his victim.

Crossley retired from his job as a machinist in the Navy Yard and had celebrated his 50th wedding anniversity last November. He and his wife had lived at the S Street address for 42 years. Neighbors expressed shock and disgust at the news of the killing.

"He was a lovely person, very active in the church," said Mrs. Nell Cater of 1830 S St. "And you can't say it's racial; we cooperate around here," she added.

Mrs. Lorenzo Wilson of 1833 S. St. said, "He worked in his neighborhood with everybody on voter registration. There was nothing bad you could say about him."

Many of the neighbors said they though they heard firecrackers and didn't realize what had happened until ambulances arrived.

Capt. Charles Samarra, head of the police homicide division, said that "it's one of the most senseless killings I've ever seen."

Crossley also is survived by two grown daughters.