A 27-year-old Northeast Washington woman was critically wounded late Monday afternoon when she was mistakenly shot by a fish market customer who fired two shots at two would-be robbers fleeing the store, D.C. police reported yesterday.

Police said Charlene Lyons, of 3919 Ninth St. NE, was walking by the Brookland Seafood store when she was hit in the lower back by one of the two shots fired by the customer. She was listed in critical but stable condition yesterday at the Washington Hospital Center.

D.C. robbery squad detectives said the two would-be robbers, a man and a woman, walked into the store at 3736 10th St. NE about 5:15 p.m., displayed a gun and demanded money. The manager of the store, Mike Krieger, 23, said that as soon as the couple walked into the store, he recognized the man from a previous holdup and dashed out the door to a corner gas station to call police.

Meanwhile, the would-be robbers told John Blum, 23, a friend of store employes who was standing behind the counter at the time, to open the cash register, police said. When Blum could not open the register, and the robbers realized that Krieger had gone to call police, they fled empty-handed, police reported.

At that point, one of the two customers in the market chased the pair with one of two guns Krieger kept in his store, police said. He fired two shots, hitting Lyons with one of them. She was on her way to one of the stores in the small shopping plaza when she was hit.

"That was an irresponsible act and it is one of the dangers of people firing guns who have not been trained," said Alfonso Gibson, a deputy police chief.

A 32-year-old man surrendered at police headquarters last night, and told police that he was the man who had mistakenly shot Lyons while attempting to capture the bandits. He said he learned that he had wounded the victim about an hour after the shooting when he called the market from his home.

He gave a statement to robbery squad Detective Robert Groat, who said the case would be reviewed today by the U.S. Attorney's office.

Some neighborhood residents theorized that Lyons, a customer service representative at Xerox's mid-Atlantic headquarters in Arlington, was shot at because she was walking with her boyfriend and thus mistaken for one of the robbers.

The neighbors expressed shock at the incident, with some blaming the ineffectiveness of police patrols for prompting store owners to keep guns.

Krieger said that in a robbery a month ago, the man involved in Tuesday's aborted holdup put a gun to Krieger's head and forced him into a store cooler.