Holly Farms served up more than fried chicken and french fries early yesterday.

It began about 2 a.m., when a customer carrying a gun approached a security guard in the fast food carryout at 5233 North Capitol St. NE, according to D.C. police.

Nathaniel Cargill, the 61-year-old guard, knocked the gun from the customer's hand, police said. The two tussled, and the customer drew a knife, stabbed the guard and managed to take Cargill's gun. He then shot the guard in the chest.

As he was fleeing, a second customer, Steven Smith Jr., a former Capitol policeman, entered the fray and began struggling with the gunman. The melee spilled out onto the street.

D.C. police Det. Harry Williams arrived to find the two men wrestling for the gun. "Both men had a finger on the pistol's trigger," said Williams. "I knew something was going to happen, but I jumped on top of the two men. At that point, I didn't know which man was the good guy. But somehow I managed to persuade the two to let go of the handgun, and I don't mind telling you . . . my heart was palpitating," said Williams, who is five years from retirement.

Williams then arrested Alfred B. Michaux, 29, of 1108 Fourth St. SE, and charged him with mayhem, assault with intent to kill and carrying a pistol without a license.

Cargill was taken to Washington Hospital Center where he was listed in stable condition yesterday. Smith was treated at the hospital for a bite on the ear and released.