Benjamin Simmons stood glumly yesterday afternoon in front of the two-story house in Capitol Heights, trying to understand why his brother was shot and killed Thursday night. According to Prince George's County police, the shooting followed an argument with the landlord over a late rent payment.

Simmons said his brother, 40-year-old Orange Simmons, owed less than $200 for the rented room in the house at 624 Clovis Ave. where they both lived.

The owner, Martin G. Channon, 32, of 3006 Landover St., Alexandria, was charged with first-degree murder and was held without bond yesterday in the Detention Center in Upper Marlboro.

Police did not say how much Orange Simmons, who drove a tractor trailer, owed Channon. But Benjamin Simmons said his brother had just moved in this month.

"I saw the note [Channon] left for him this past Tuesday," said Benjamin Simmons, 32, who has rented one of the five rooms in the wood-frame house since October. "He did owe him money. But why couldn't he be like everybody else and go to the police with his problem and let them handle it."

Two other boarders who owed Channon back rent had moved out of the house last Friday without paying, Benjamin Simmons said. "That might have gotten him mad," he said, "but it doesn't make what happened right. If everybody was shot for not paying rent, there would be a whole lot of people dead."

Channon allegedly shot Orange Simmons about 8:30 p.m. when the two men were alone as Simmons continued to move toward Channon after Channon warned Simmons to stop, said Cpl. Bruce Gentile, a county police spokesman.

"There was no struggle between the two of them," Gentile said. "Simmons was not armed."

After Simmons was shot, police said, Channon told a neighbor to call an ambulance and police. Channon remained at the scene, police said, until they arrived. Simmons was taken to Prince George's General Hospital where he was pronounced dead a few hours later, police said

Yesterday, Benjamin Simmons was trying to come to terms with the violence. Two teen-agers walking slowly up one of Clovis Avenue's steep hills waved to Simmons as they passed, and he answered with a slow "how ya doing." A short distance away, a friend hammered away at Simmons' car and sent word to Simmons that his efforts were making him hungry. "What do you need something to eat for?" Simmons hollered back. "You ain't done any work yet."

Then, Simmons let out a quiet laugh. But it quickly ended. "You know," he said, "I'm trying to laugh. I'm trying to joke, trying to act like nothing's happened. But it's not working."