An off-duty D.C. police officer, on his way to celebrate his mother's birthday, spotted a suspicious car late Wednesday and, after an hour-long chase and confrontation, arrested two men wanted in Montgomery County in connection with the kidnaping of a baby girl Tuesday.

The officer, Richard Gaskins, recognized the car from a lookout put out in roll call and followed it, a 1982 Ford EXP, from Fourth Street and Kansas Avenue NW to a back alley near Howard University, where he jumped out of his car and pulled his service revolver on the two suspects, police said.

"In a way it reminded me of the movies, but it was real life," said Gaskins, an eight-year veteran who has never done any undercover work.

Arrested were Chappele Boinman, 22, of Farragut Street NW, and a 17-year-old Northwest juvenile, police said. They were held as fugitives pending extradition to Montgomery County. In addition to kidnaping charges, they are also wanted there for armed robbery and unauthorized use of a vehicle, police said.

The baby was in a car stolen from a mother at gunpoint as she parked in front of her Silver Spring apartment Tuesday night, police said. Two armed robbers had accosted her there and demanded she remove the baby from the car, but the woman was too frightened to move and the gunmen sped off in her car with the baby, police said.

The baby was recovered unharmed by D.C. police about three hours later after a phone tip.

Gaskins said in an interview yesterday that he first spotted the car near Third and Emerson streets NW. "I wasn't sure that it was the car, but something said turn around and check it out," he said.

After turning around, he lost sight of the car. But after calling police headquarters to confirm that the car was indeed stolen, he gave chase again and relocated the car heading south on Fourth Street NW.

He said he followed the suspects for about five miles, not getting closer than four car lengths.

At a dead-end alley in the 300 block of Elm Street NW, Gaskins jumped out of his car, drew his revolver, and ran up to the suspects shouting, "Police officer! Freeze!," Gaskins said.

One of the suspects attacked Gaskins, who fought off the man and subdued him after a struggle for the officer's gun, which discharged one round in the air during the struggle. He then held the two suspects at bay until people nearby summoned other police.

"He's the kind of police we need, said Gaskins' commander, deputy chief Clay Goldston. "We're considering him for an award because of his excellent police work in making the arrest."