A 28-year-old Southwest Washington man who had complained to police of pains in his legs and arms after his arrest early yesterday died of a heart attack after sitting in a patrol wagon for more than an hour outside D.C. General Hospital waiting to be admitted, D.C. police said.

Police and hospital officials gave contradictory accounts of why the man was not admitted for treatment until he was in the midst of a heart attack. A police spokesman said officers were told by hospital personnel that there was a backlog of patients. A hospital spokeswoman said, however, that emergency room personnel were not told there was a patient waiting to be seen.

Police spokesman Sgt. Joseph Gentile said the man, Michael A. Reid of 11 Galveston Place SW, had been arrested on a misdemeanor bench warrant about 1:15 a.m. at an all-night dancing club at 21 Atlantic St. SW. It could not be learned yesterday what Reid was charged with in the warrant.

Gentile said Reid tried to kick out the windows of a patrol car in which he had been placed, and was transferred to a patrol wagon and taken to the 7th District station at 1324 Mississippi Ave. SE, where he was booked. Officers used hand and leg cuffs to restrain Reid, described as 5 feet 7 inches tall and weighing 218 pounds, "because he was kicking and fighting," Gentile said.

A homicide official said there were indications that Reid had been drinking.

Shortly before 4 a.m., Gentile said, Reid complained of pains in his legs and arms. He was handcuffed, placed in a patrol wagon and taken to D.C. General Hospital, arriving about 3:54 a.m., Gentile said.

Once there, Gentile said, police were told by hospital personnel that there was a backlog of patients.

"Our officers indicated they had to wait about an hour and 20 minutes before they took him in because of a backlog," Gentile said.

He said the officers "kept checking on the man" in the meantime, and during one check they discovered that Reid was unconscious and notified emergency room personnel.

Mehr Moradi, the hospital's on-call administrator, said yesterday that no one at the hospital knew that the police officers had a patient waiting to be admitted until 5:15 a.m., when they told an emergency room nurse that they had a man in a patrol wagon who did not appear to be breathing.

The nurse checked on Reid and discovered that "at that point he was in full cardiac arrest," Moradi said. She said a team of doctors and nurses rushed Reid into the emergency room and attempted to resuscitate him for about 35 minutes before he died at 5:55.

The medical examiner ruled that Reid died of massive pulmonary embolism, police said. The doctor who performed the autopsy refused to discuss the case yesterday.

Dr. Marvin Barnard, acting director of the hospital's emergency care center, said that the first record of a person's arrival at the emergency room is made by the triage station, which categorizes patients according to the severity of their medical problems and the urgency of their needs.

Barnard said that according to the hospital's medical records on Reid, he was received by the triage station at 5:15 a.m. and diagnosed as being in full cardiac arrest from that time until he died. Reid was registered at 5:39 a.m., Barnard said.

"I do not see any corroboration of the patient arriving earlier than that 5:15 a.m. on our hospital documentation," he said.

Police said the death remains under investigation.