A District of Columbia police officer was critically wounded early yesterday morning when he was struck by one and possibly two shotgun blasts in front of his Annapolis home as he was preparing to drive to work.

Annapolis police said Detective Donald P. Bennett, 32, was climbing into his Dodge pickup truck shortly before 6 a.m. when shotgun pellets hit him in his lower abdomen, hips, legs and right hand.

Bennett's wife, Lucille, said she was in bed at the time of the shooting, but heard a "loud explosion" outside the house, on a quiet street in the Parole area at the western edge of the city.

D.C. and Annapolis police spokesmen said last night that they are investigating whether the shooting is linked to the officer's assignments. Bennett, a 12-year-veteran of the D.C. police, is assigned to the 4th Police District's auto theft squad.

According to police, Bennett never saw his attackers. According to Mrs. Bennett, her husband thought he had been wounded by the misfiring of the police revolver he wore on his belt.

"He was on his knees, yelling for help," Mrs. Bennett said. "He kept saying, 'My gun went off.' "

Just after he was wounded, Bennett removed his revolver and was checking its chamber to determine if it had fired, then collapsed in his driveway, police said.

Police said they received reports that Bennett was attacked by someone who sped away in a large American car. Another account placed the attackers in a wooded area to the rear of Bennett's house, police said.

Mrs. Bennett, who said she didn't hear the sound of a car after the shooting, said that doctors treating her husband at the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center told her that judging by the location of the wounds, her husband had been hit by two shotgun blasts, probably fired from different directions.

A hospital spokesman said last night that Bennett is in critical condition, but declined to comment on the nature of the wounds.

Mrs. Bennett said that her husband, who apparently had no idea he had been ambushed, kept telling her how sorry he was that the incident occurred in front of their home, where he moved his wife and four daughters to keep from away from the dangers of his job.