A man sought by police after his estranged wife was found shot to death was shot and critically wounded by an Arlington police officer last night after what was described as a tense confrontation.

The man, identified by police as Robert R. Barrow, 46, a Defense Department auditor, was reported in critical condition at Arlington Hospital early today suffering from at least two gunshot wounds in the chest.

The body of Barrow's estranged wife, identified by police as Nancy Barrow, was found inside her home at 4818 N. 25th St., Arlington, shortly after the police responded to the alarm about 9:30 p.m. She was pronounced dead at the scene, police said.

Neighbors had called police to report they heard a woman screaming inside the 25th Street house, according to police spokesman Randy Bertsch.

When Cpl. Norman Tyler arrived at the two-story house, neighbors told him they earlier had heard what sounded like gunshots coming from inside the house, according to Bertsch. Tyler then saw a man run from the back of the Barrow house and get into a Toyota parked in the driveway, Bertsch said. He said Tyler ran to the car and tried to reach inside and grab the ignition keys, but the man drove away.

Tyler broadcast a description of the man and the car, Bertsch said, and about 10 minutes later Officer Jeffrey Markley, on routine patrol, spotted a vehicle matching the description, tried to pull it over and succeeded in stopping it on Patrick Henry Drive near George Mason Drive.

At that point, Bertsch said, the car's driver got out carrying a handgun and Markley fired several times after the man disregarded his order to drop the weapon. It was unclear last night whether the man fired at police, officials said.

Warren Brown, a Washington Post reporter who lives in the neighborhood, said he was putting away his lawn mower when he heard a voice, apparently amplified by a loudspeaker, say: "Please do not move. Please don't do it."

"Then I heard two shots," Brown said. "Then there seemed to be several voices literally begging: 'Sir, please don't do it. Please put down the gun.' Then there was another shot."

Other neighbors said the Barrows, who separated about a year ago, have a son, about 8 years old, who was not at the house on 25th Street last night.

Harold Rice, who lives two doors away, said the Barrows had lived in the house for about 10 years and had "separated and seemed to have settled everything very amicably. They had made arrangements so the son could be shared between the two of them."