A District police officer, responding to a call that a man was firing shots into the air, fatally shot a 19-year-old Northwest man yesterday morning after the suspect pointed what the officer believed was a gun.

Tyrone Hawkins of 1510 Seventh St. NW was shot in the neck as he crouched in a storage shed in the back yard of a town house at 1339 Fifth St. NW.

Police officials said Officer Lewis Dunlap, 29 and on the force five years, was placed on administrative leave with pay pending an investigation.

Police did not find a gun at the scene of the shooting, but said they recovered a pair of scissors, 34 capsules of crack -- rocks of purified cocaine -- and nine bags of cocaine.

Assistant Chief Isaac Fulwood said the area near the shooting was well-known for drug trafficking and the neighborhood had been targeted in the past by Operation Clean Sweep, the department's aggressive program geared to get drug dealers off the street.

Meanwhile, residents in the apartment complex in Shaw where the shooting occurred disputed the police account of the incident.

Police said Dunlap arrived in the 1300 block of Fifth Street NW, where shooting was reported, about 1:30 a.m. He saw someone who matched the description given of the man with a gun. He chased that man and another man to the rear of the 1500 block of Fifth Street NW, police said.

"The officer approached the subjects with his service revolver drawn and ordered them to raise their hands," a police spokeswoman said. "One complied and the other darted into a nearby shed. As the officer cautiously approached the shed, he observed the subject crouching inside and armed with a handgun pointed in his direction."

The spokeswoman said Dunlap believed his life was in danger and fired one shot that struck the man in the neck. The man, later identified as Hawkins, died at Howard University Hospital about 5 a.m., police said.

A resident of complex said she was awakened by the sound of running and shouting and she saw Hawkins sitting in the shed in her back yard. Another man was standing in the corner of the yard, she said.

The woman, who asked that her name not be used, said there were two officers in the yard, one pointing a gun in the shed and another pointing a gun at the other young man.

"I could hear {Hawkins} saying, 'Don't shoot. Don't shoot. I'm coming out. I'm coming out,' " said the woman. "I saw the . . . officer bend down . . . and shoot him. After the police officer shot him, he kicked the boy.

"He didn't give him time to get out," she said. "I came out of the house as soon as he was shot. I didn't see any gun {on Hawkins}."

Capt. William White III, a police spokesman, said police were still canvassing the neighborhood last night and interviewing witnesses to the shooting.

"At this point, there is no indication that anyone kicked Hawkins," he said.

Neighbors said the 145-unit complex has been under police surveillance, and that police officers, called "jumpouts" on the streets, often jumped out of their cars and ran through the courtyard to break up groups of teen-agers.

Yesterday, a few teen-aged girls, with tears in their eyes, listened to residents give their version of the shooting. A group of teen-aged boys stood whispering in a group, but most did not want to talk about the shooting.

While the residents talked, Hawkins' 12-year-old sister Renee and his stepfather Charles Providence came to look at the yard where Hawkins, known as "Chub," was killed.

Renee took pictures of the four-foot brick storage shed where people told her her brother was shot and the blood-splattered area on the sidewalk where her brother lay until the ambulance arrived.

Providence picked up his stepson's single black Reebok, which lay in the yard.

Selma Providence, Hawkins' mother, said that when her son was 16 he and some other boys were charged with snatching a purse, but charges were dropped for lack of evidence.

When he was 17, Hawkins was charged with distribution of cocaine and served one year of probation on the charge, Selma Providence said. He spent two months at the Oak Hill youth detention center awaiting trial.

Because he missed so many days, he was put out of Dunbar High School while he was in the 11th grade, she said.

"He went to Armstrong at night, but he dropped out," she said. "He told me {Monday} he wanted to go back to day school.'

"He hasn't been in any trouble since that {cocaine charge}," she said, her voice cracking.