A Prince George's County policeman was placed on leave with pay yesterday after an incident outside a Landover nightclub in which a Northwest Washington man was shot.

According to a police account, Officer Steven Lighty's service revolver went off accidentally, wounding 24-year-old Charles D. Payne in the left forearm. Payne was later treated at Prince George's General Hospital and charged with three counts of assault and battery.

A police spokesman said leave and an investigation are mandatory in Prince George's County whenever a policeman's firearm results in death or injury. Lighty was off-duty at the time of the incident.

Police said the incident began at about 2:15 a.m. Sunday morning, when Payne and a male friend entered Club Distinction, located at 7752 Landover Rd. Both men refused two separate requests to honor club policy by showing indentification and an argument ensued.

Officer Michael Murphy, who a police spokesman said worked at the club while off duty, was called and escorted the two men outside, police reported. There a scuffle ensued and Murphy was thrown to the ground, with Payne allegedly seizing his nightstick.

Police said a second off-duty officer present at the club that night, Theodore Sterling, saw Murphy in trouble and went to his aid. Payne swung Murphy's nightstick at Sterling and attempted to pull Murphy's service revolver out of its holster, according to police.

At this point, a third officer, Steven Lighty, joined the fray. Lighty drew his pistol but was afraid to shoot because of the scuffle's close quarters, police said. Lighty went to aid Sterling and together with Payne all three fell to the ground, accidentally discharging Lighty's gun.

Payne was then subdued. While leading him to a patrol car, the officers saw blood on his sleeve and discovered he had been shot. Lighty was placed on leave with pay pending an investigation by the department's Internal Affairs Division. Results will probably be submitted to the State's Attorney's office, a police spokesman said.