Officials at a high-security Maryland state psychiatric hospital are seeking court permission to force-feed Edward Thomas Mann, accused of killing three people during a shooting spree at IBM's Bethesda office complex last year but found incompetent to stand trial.

Mann, 39, began a "partial" hunger strike on June 1 and plans to continue until he gets to meet with his prosecutors, according to a petition filed Friday in Montgomery County Circuit Court by Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center doctors. Since beginning his fast, the petition says, Mann has eaten little more than one dish of strawberries and whipped cream, a banana and a prune, a serving of ice cream and some jelly beans. The doctors said Mann has been drinking orange juice and his health apparently is not immediately threatened.

Circuit Judge William C. Miller is scheduled to hear the petition next Monday, and also will decide whether Mann should be granted the interview he is seeking with county prosecutors. Carol Freeman and George Lipman, public defenders representing Mann, both said yesterday they plan to argue in court that Mann should be force-fed if necessary.

Freeman and Lipman said they also will oppose allowing Mann to be interviewed by a county prosecutor, and a request by a local television station for an interview with Mann.

According to court papers, Mann's weight has fallen from 206 to 172 pounds since he began his hunger strike. "Mr. Mann's physical condition is deteriorating," according to a statement filed by Dr. Jacques A. Clermont, acting superintendent at Perkins, "and while his life is not yet in danger, his life will be endangered in the very near future if he persists in his refusal to eat or drink."

Dr. David A. Rojas, a staff psychiatrist at Perkins, stated in court papers that Mann "appears to be in a weakened position, but is in good spirits and has been watching television and playing cards."

Mann was committed to Perkins in February this year, after a Montgomery County judge found him incompetent to stand trial.