A 23-year-old janitor who had been arrested twice in less than a week on disorderly conduct charges used his shirt to hang himself in a holding cell at the 4th District police station Tuesday night, D.C. police said yesterday.

Michael Hunt of 1477 Newton St. NW was arrested at 7:20 p.m. Tuesday after his companion, Marilyn Tate of the same address, called police to report that he was attacking her, police said.

Officers did not find grounds for an assault charge, but arrested Hunt when he became "disorderly and belligerent," according to police spokesman Capt. William White III.

According to White, Hunt was placed in one of 12 individual holding cells at the station at 6001 Georgia Ave. NW at about 8 p.m.

An officer checked on Hunt, who was acting in a "violent and agitated manner," at about 8:35 p.m., according to White. "He was still hollering and shouting that he wanted out," White said.

At 8:50 p.m., a police officer who was taking another prisoner to a holding cell discovered Hunt's body hanging from the top horizontal bar of the cell door, White said.

Officers applied first aid and called an ambulance but Hunt did not respond. He was taken to the Washington Hospital Center MedStar Unit, where he was pronounced dead at 10:16 p.m., police said. "We have written guidelines that require us to check on prisoner at 30-minute intervals. Only 15 minutes had elapsed from the time an officer had checked on him," White said.

Whenever a prisoner dies in police custody, the death is investigated by the homicide squad, which forwards a report to the U.S. attorney's office.

Sources said Hunt had a history of smoking PCP, a cheap and potent hallucinogenic drug that causes violent, bizarre behavior. Last Wednesday, Hunt had been arrested at the apartment he shares with Tate and charged with disorderly conduct, police said.