A 21-year-old Capitol Heights man died early yesterday from multiple gunshot wounds received from two plainclothes Prince George's County police officers, who fired at the man after police said he appeared to reach into his pants for a weapon as he was fleeing from the officers.

Maj. James Ross, chief of the county police's Criminal Investigation Division, said the two officers fired nine shots at Ronald Walker of 5711 Coolidge St., who they believed to be a suspect in what appeared to be a drug sale. Police found no weapon or drugs on Walker, Ross said, but officers searching the area found a steak knife and several packets of marijuana. As of yesterday afternoon, Ross said, "We have not been able to connect them to Mr. Walker."

Ross said police were unable by late yesterday to find anyone who witnessed the shooting, which occurred at the edge of Maryland Park Drive.

However, two men who said they witnessed the shooting from the front porch of a house across the street said they did not see Walker reaching for a weapon. Frank Dumore and Michael Davis said they were talking on the porch of Davis' house when the two officers approached Walker.

"This detective jumped out of the car and told him to hold it," said Dumore, 18. "Ronnie started running toward the field. His back was turned to the officers at all times. He was just trying to get away. He never stopped or nothing. I saw it with my own eyes."

The shooting occurred about 6 p.m. Thursday, as officers from the Seat Pleasant station's tactical unit -- also known as the Wolfpack -- staked out the area around Maryland Park Drive and Eagle Street in Capitol Heights. Ross said the two officers, Cpl. Steven F. Kane and Pfc. Purcell O. Alston Jr., saw from their unmarked car an apparent drug deal involving Walker. When the officers approached him, Ross said, Walker began running north on Maryland Park Drive toward a field.

The officers, who were wearing fluorescent armbands, identified themselves and ordered Walker to stop, Ross said, but Walker kept running. As Walker approached an opening in the fence surrounding the field, Ross said, the officers saw Walker reach into the waistband of his pants as if he were grabbing for a weapon.

Ross said he did not know how many shots hit Walker, who lived about five blocks from where the shooting occurred. Walker died about 2:40 a.m. after surgery at Prince George's General Hospital, police said.

Both Kane, 32, a 12-year veteran, and Alston, 24, a two-year veteran, were placed on routine administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation. "It appears that both officers acted properly and were within departmental guidelines concerning the use of deadly force," Ross said.

Ross said the officers were in the area because of complaints from neighbors about the open sale of drugs around Maryland Park Drive and Eagle Street. Since June 1985, he said, police have made more than 75 drug arrests in the area, mostly for the sale and possession of marijuana and PCP.

Harold Reynolds, owner of Reynolds' Market, 202 Maryland Park Dr., said he has called police several times about street drug sales near his store.

Walker was a graduate of Bladensburg High School. Friends said he operated an outdoor hot dog and snack stand on North Capitol Street near the main Post Office.

Walker was the first victim of a fatal shooting by county police this year, according to police spokesman Robert Law. Last year, there were four fatal shootings by police.