One man was killed and three others were wounded, two seriously, last night when an argument among several persons on the street near North Capitol and R streets NE erupted in gunfire, D.C. police reported.

Details of the shooting, which occurred about 10:45 p.m. in the midst of an area known for drug trafficking, were sketchy early today as police tried to determine how each of the four victims, found at three locations, had become involved in the incident.

Police identified the dead man as Alton Clea, 23. A woman who identified herself as the dead man's mother said he lived at 704 51st St. NE.

Two of the wounded were brothers of the dead man, police said. They were identified as Leon Clea, 22, and Andre Clea, 18.

The fourth man was identified by police as William Goins, age unknown. Police said they had no addresses for any of the men.

Officials at the Washington Hospital Center said early today that the shooting victims being treated there were in serious condition.

Police said the shootings, which involved an unknown number of armed assailants, apparently followed an altercation earlier last night near the scene of the shootings. All the victims were believed to have been unarmed. None had a weapon when found, police and fire officials said.

Officials were first alerted to the shootings when a man who had been shot in the face stumbled into the D.C. Fire Department's Engine Co. 12 at 1625 North Capitol St. NW.

The man, later identified as Goins, told firefighters that other wounded persons were in the delicatessen across the street.

Medical personnel from the fire station ran to Malik's Variety Store, 2 Quincy Place NE, where they found two men, Leon and Andre Clea, suffering from gunshot wounds. Alton Clea was found dead lying on the sidewalk in the unit block of R Street NE, according to firefighters and police.

Within minutes, several persons who said they were related to the shooting victims gathered nearby to await condition reports on their relatives.

Butch Johnson, an employe at Malik's, said he did not hear any shots fired before the two men, whom he said he did not recognize, collapsed inside his business.

He said one of the men had been shot in the foot and that the other man had been shot in the chest.

"They just stumbled in here. There was blood spurting out all over," said Johnson, 35. "It's the first time I've ever seen anything like that in my life."

He said the men did not say anything about the shooting. "All they were doing was screaming for help and saying they couldn't breathe," Johnson said.

One of the men collapsed in front of the counter of Malik's, which neighbors described as a small convenience store that also has video games. The second man stumbled through the store and collapsed in a back corridor, Johnson said.

Police Lt. W. L. Lofton of the 5th District said the man found dead on R Street NE had been shot in the mouth.

Police were still at the shooting scene early today continuing their investigation.