It apparently was one of the shortest cases that D.C. homicide detectives Tom Arnold and Joe Schwartz had ever worked.

At 10:30 Monday night they left the office at 300 Indiana Ave. NW to investigate a fatal shooting at Harvard Street and Georgia Avenue NW. About an hour later their roles in the investigation came to a halt when an official in the Criminal Investigations Division ordered them back to D.C. police headquarters for an unprecedented reason: police officials were concerned that the detectives, who got off work at 11:30 p.m., would have to be paid overtime to continue working the case.

Two more investigators, Julia Crosby and Daniel Villars, were assigned to the case and worked it through the night. When their shift of duty was finished at 7:30 a.m., they, too, were ordered to go home, again because of overtime.

When a suspect in the slaying was arrested about noon yesterday, Detective Dwayne Stanton appeared at the D.C. Superior Court arraignment, but because he had only limited knowledge of the case, the proceeding had to be postponed until today.

While homicide officials and investigators reacted with anger and frustration at what one termed the "round robin" of detectives assigned to the case, police officials -- embarrassed at the way the investigation was handled -- said a misinterpretation of a memo on work hours caused the confusion.

Gary Hankins, labor committee chairman of the Fraternal Order of Police, said the community was "shortchanged" in the quality of the investigation.

"Any time an investigation is being conducted, when the evidence is freshest and people's memories are freshest is the most productive time. The idea of pulling people off at that time of an investigation is ludicrous," Hankins said.

"We certainly are not going to stop our job as police officers because someone is going to eat up [compensatory] time or overtime," said Assistant Chief of Police Isaac Fulwood Jr., who called the removal of the original detectives "unacceptable."

"It should never have happened," Fulwood said. "They should have stayed on the scene and finished the case."

The victim of the shooting was identified by police as Duane Lee Taylor, 18, of 589 Columbia Rd. NW, who was shot once in the upper right chest and was taken by D.C. Fire Department ambulance to the Washington Hospital Center, where he died a short time later.

Police said a 16-year-old Northwest Washington youth, whose name was not released, was arrested about 1 p.m. yesterday and charged with second-degree murder in the slaying.

No officials or investigators in the homicide unit would speak on the record about the investigation of the incident because of a standing order that members of the unit not talk with the press. Details were provided by homicide officials, investigators, and other police department sources who were familiar with the case.

Fulwood said the removal of investigators was due to a "misinterpretation" of a July 3 police memo that attempted to spell out new guidelines on when and how police officers should be paid overtime.

The new guidelines were necessary, Fulwood said, because of a recent Supreme Court ruling that police officers and firefighters nationwide are covered by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.

Previously, D.C. police officers, who were not covered by the act, could work overtime in exchange for an equal amount of leave. Under the Supreme Court ruling, however, an officer who works more than 171 hours in a 28-day period has to be paid time-and-a-half.

The memo said that "Compensatory time earned as a result of late runs, late arrest, etc., must be documented," justified and signed by the watch commander.

According to Fulwood, the purpose of the memo was "not only to control [compensatory] time but to get a handle on the impact" of the Supreme Court ruling, which he said could have a "devastating effect on the budget of the department." Fulwood said he thought the memo was "perfectly clear."

"If there was a misunderstanding, it's been cleared up," he said.