After the slew of police and media had left, after the neighbors on the street had returned to their routine, the tenants of 412 Mellon St. SE sat outside their building yesterday trying to make sense of an incident that began over a puppy and ended with one man being shot and a police barricade of the street.

"Everybody's just walking on pins and needles right now," one woman said of the incident, which occurred just after 5 p.m. Two neighbors -- both tenants of the Mellon Street apartment building -- got into an argument after 32-year-old Charles Cogdell's puppy strayed onto a common front lawn and relieved itself near a tree, police said.

Then, Cogdell said later, an angry tenant screamed at him, got a gun from his car and fired three shots at the terrified Cogdell as he cowered with his German shepherd puppy behind the tree.

One of the shots struck Cogdell's lower right leg, causing a flesh wound.

Uncertain where the suspect had fled, police cordoned off the street. Three hours later, police said the assailant, whose name they withheld, had left his apartment and fled, apparently before police had arrived.

Neighbors had only one explanation for the incident: "He's crazy," several said, describing a man whose name they did not know but who had puzzled and irritated neighbors with his strong affection for the patchy 10-by-15-foot lawn in front of the building.

"He was always protecting that lawn," said Lorraine Tucker, who lived upstairs from the assailant and across the hall from the victim. "I was standing on the grass one day talking to my neighbor when he came out and said his wife wouldn't even stand on the lawn. Then he started cussing me out."

Cogdell, who was treated at Greater Southeast Community Hospital and released, said he expected only a verbal argument from his neighbor. "I'm a little upset because if he had something to say against me, he could have talked to me man to man," he said.

"I was not going to argue with him over something that was unnecessary," Cogdell said. But, he said, he had little choice.

Cogdell said the man, who, according to neighbors, often said he was God, approached Cogdell as he sat on the front steps of the apartments watching his puppy Duke. After a brief exchange of words in which the man said he was going to "smash {the dog's} head in the dirt," the man walked to his car parked at the curb and returned with a handgun.

"I ducked behind the tree and he shot twice," Cogdell said. "Then he walked up and fired one more time. That's when he hit me."

Cogdell, who struggled to escape over a nearby chain-link fence and into his sister's apartment, said he did not see where his fellow tenant ran.

In the end, police and neighbors said, the incident could have been far worse. Tucker said her 10-year-old son and 8-year-old nephew were playing nearby when the shooting occurred, but neither was harmed. Duke, who Cogdell said is less than six months old, was found after the barricade ended, hiding behind his owner's sofa.

For his part, Cogdell was perplexed as well as frightened. "I think it's pretty bad, you know," he said. "He was going to shoot a man over a dog."