Dozens of heavily armed FBI agents and District police sealed off a posh Northwest hotel for three hours yesterday in search of a British fugitive wanted for manslaughter in Ireland and for gun violations, wire fraud and transporting stolen goods in this country, according to the FBI and police.

The FBI identified the man as William D. Coleman, 38, who they said also goes by the name of Alfred W. Clarkson. An FBI circular said that Coleman is armed and dangerous and is wanted in the illegal purchase of a folding-stock shotgun.

FBI Special Agent Dana Caro would not answer questions concerning charges against Coleman after a brief press statement outside the Bristol Hotel at 24th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW where Coleman was said to be staying. During the search agents and police sealed off the hotel and sidewalks and allowed no one to enter.

According to police, someone called the FBI and said that Coleman was staying at the hotel. Agents and police officers sealed off the hotel about 2 p.m. yesterday. When agents and police entered his room they found only papers, cans and soda bottles, according to a police source.

"Coleman's name did not appear on any of the papers," the source said. "They will be checked for fingerprints."

Coleman is believed to have been traveling between Richmond and Washington for the last month staying at various hotels and allegedly defrauding merchants by having clothing he had selected delivered to the hotel, then failing to pay for it.

A high-ranking police official, who did not want to be named, described Coleman as a "terrorist who is armed and very dangerous," but an FBI official on the scene said that he is not a terrorist. Police officials in Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland said they did not know of Coleman and had no information concerning the manslaughter charge.