Two elderly brothers were wounded critically by an assailant who tried to rob them outside a Prince George's liquor store, police reported yesterday.

Jesse Lewis Wilson, 69, of Bentonville, Va., was shot in the neck and Murray (Buddy) Wilson, 72, of Hyattsville was shot in the head after a man in his 30s approached them and asked for money.

Both were taken to Prince George's General Hospital where Murray Wilson was reported in very poor condition. His brother was in good condition.

Police reported that the elder Wilson parked his small pickup truck in front of Greer's Liquor Store in Bladensburg about 10:30 a.m. to ask directions to a nearby tool store. According to police, a man wearing a navy blue ski jacket with a furry hood approached the truck shortly after the elder Wilson returned. He displayed a handgun and asked for money.

When Jesse Wilson attempted to put the truck into gear, the suspect fired at least twice and then fled on foot, police said.

The manager of the liquor store, who asked not to be named, said of the elder Wilson, "He walks out of the store and in less than a minute he walks back in and said that he and his friend have been shot, call the police."

The younger Wilson was struck in the jugular vein, according to a hospital spokesman.

Before their retirement six years ago, the Wilson brothers had owned and operated two restaurants in Brentwood and Mount Rainier, less than two miles from the scene of the shooting. Murray Wilson's brother-in-law, Harvey Hayes of Alexandria, said Jesse had retired to the mountains of rural Bentonville about 70 miles from Washington, but visited his brother often.

"They are very close brothers. Jesse stays here whenever he's in the city," Hayes said. "They were both content retirees; they had done very well in the restaurant business," he added.

Hayes said he was not surprised the younger Wilson tried to escape from the robbery attempt.

"He's got spunk, I'll say that."

Police said the shooting remains under investigation.