A Palmer Park man was shot to death by a Prince George's County police officer yesterday when he lunged at the officer with two butcher knives, police reported.

The man, Kenneth I. Kelliebrew, 20, was apparently despondent at the prospect of being returned to jail for violating probation, according to his mother, Ruth Kelliebrew, who was present during the incident.

Police said a drunken Kelliebrew created a disturbance about 4 a.m. at his mother's home, 7728 Oxman Rd., where he was living. Mrs. Kelliebrew said that he began "fussing and fighting" with his two brothers and a sister about some clothing he could not find and grabbed two eight-inch butcher knives from the kitchen.

At this point, his mother said, she shut herself and her youngest children in the bedroom while Kevin Kelliebrew, 15, tried to reason with his brother Kenneth. Police were called and three officers arrived.

Police said Officer Theodore G. Sterling fired his revolver once when Kenneth Kelliebrew ignored his orders to drop the knives and lunged at him. Kelliebrew, wounded in the chest, was pronounced dead at 6 a.m. at Prince George's General Hospital.

Sterling, a six-year veteran of the force, was placed on administrative leave pending a routine investigation.

Kelliebrew's mother said he was free on bail pending trial of robbery and assault charges and was on five years' probation following conviction of a previous offense. Her son had been told he was certain to return to jail, Mrs. Kelliebrew said, and "in the last couple of days had been thinking about this all the time -- he had just become obsessed."

Mrs. Kelliebrew said she doesn't believe police used excessive force in yesterday's confrontation. "That was not the case," she said. "They asked him repeatedly to give up the knives. He kept saying the police weren't going to take him and that he wanted to die. I believe he wanted it to happen."