In Washington Highlands last Sunday, the ordinariness of the chilly, pleasant morning was shattered by a gunman who drove through the working-class community, randomly shooting at people. Shots were fired at nine people. One died and two were seriously wounded.

Five days after the shooting rampage, a suspect sits in jail, two of the victims are in the hospital and a neighborhood has been left wounded and angry by descriptions from police and the media that the shooting was drug-related.

Residents, who say their neighborhood has been portrayed unfairly, complained that police responded slowly to reports of the shooting. Some also complained about the U.S. attorney's office's decision not to charge the suspect with first-degree murder, and said he received preferential treatment because he is white.

"I am tired of this 'everything is drug-related,' said one longtime resident whose son-in-law was shot at. "Everything is not drug-related. There are innocent, good people in this neighborhood."

Washington Highlands, like many of the city's other neighborhoods, has some drug trafficking problems. And as in other communities, many people are working to rid their streets of crime.

The two men who survived the shootings emphatically denied knowing the gunman or using drugs. Both said they were working men who have no use for drugs and don't know why they were targets.

The first report of shooting came about 6:40 a.m. Sunday. Shortly afterward, police spotted and then chased a white car bearing Virginia tags. The car eventually crashed into a telephone pole at Southern Avenue and Naylor Road SE.

Late yesterday, police were unable to determine the response time.

The driver, Ian James Blair, 23, was arrested as he tried to reach under the front seat of the car, where police later said they found a semiautomatic .22 caliber pistol loaded with 10 rounds of ammunition. They said they also found 20 expended rounds in the car.

A police official said plastic bags containing traces of a white powder that they believe to be cocaine were also found in Blair's car, along with a pipe and small portable torch often associated with cocaine use.

Police sources said Blair, who was arrested on first-degree murder charges, told them, "I don't remember anything."

Blair, who was later charged by the U.S. attorney's office with second-degree murder, was being held late yesterday awaiting release on a $10,000 surety bond. The U.S. attorney's office had asked for a $25,000 surety bond, which was reduced by the court commissioner hearing the case.

A spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office said the case is being treated as a very serious matter and handled in the same way as other such cases.

A source close to the case said the second-degree charge was appropriate because of the admissible evidence available at the time. But the source indicated that a grand jury could review the charges and hear any additional evidence.

According to court documents, Blair has no convictions. He lives at home with his parents in Oxon Hill and has been employed for 13 months as a car radio installer for Circuit City on Leesburg Pike in Virginia.

One resident, who has says she has lived in the neighborhood for 21 years and did not want her name used, complained about what she described as a "double standard." She was angered by the court's treatment of Blair's case and the underlying assumption that "killing black people is okay . . . .

"I could go out and steal a loaf of bread for my baby and I'd stay in jail."

D.C. Council member H.R. Crawford (D-Ward 7), a property owner and businessman in Ward 8 where the shootings occurred, said yesterday: "It's extremely upsetting to the people in the area . . . . I hate to get into a black-white thing, but I'm certain if it had been a black man, the bond would have been higher."

Council member Wilhelmina Rolark (D-Ward 8) said she has some concerns about the shootings and is conducting her own investigation. She has scheduled a community meeting for Tuesday.

Police said yesterday that they still have no motive. And the victims wonder why they were singled out.

For Matthew Pressley, 32, it was his first morning walking to work from his new apartment on South Capitol Street SE. One block north of the Maryland line, he was shot in the leg and abdomen by a gunman who repeatedly yelled "Live or die," as he drove past in a white car.

Three blocks away, Edward Gray, 37, was returning home from his all-night job as a cook in an Alexandria restaurant when he was confronted by a man driving a white car who shot him in the chest and shoulder when Gray said he did not know a man named Michael.

Pressley and Gray lived to tell their stories, but 28-year-old James Montgomery did not survive the multiple gunshots that struck him as he walked along Fourth Street at Mississippi Avenue SE.

Gray, who attributes his survival Sunday morning to his good physical health and his religious faith, said in an interview in his hospital room that he is not involved in drugs.

"I want to make this very clear," he said as he tried to pull himself upright. "I don't do drugs."

Gray said he saw the "nose of the gun" as the driver of the white car fired at him after making a racial slur.

"I ran hollering down the street," Gray said. "I showed people the blood but they kept on driving by. Finally some guy came out of his house and said, 'Take it easy,' and then the ambulance came."

Pressley, who said he has no reason to use drugs, works as a maintenance man at the Eastover Shopping Center just across the District line from his home.

"I was the only one on the street that time of the morning," he said in a telephone interview from D.C. General Hospital. "I lay on the ground for at least 15 minutes."

He said he had never before seen the man who shot at him. "My suggestion is that the man is cracking up."

Sherman Hodges' routine Sunday drive down Mississippi Avenue SE to the corner store for a newspaper and a pack of cigarettes was unexpectedly abandoned when a slow-moving white car approached him near Fifth Street SE.

"I saw the gun," he said. "The only thing I yelled was, 'Oh Lord.' I fell over {on the front seat} and knocked the car into neutral. There was a whole lot of smoke coming out of the engine. I finally got the car into drive."

Hodges later discovered a bullet hole in the front of his car. He said when he looked for the white car, the driver was turning on Sixth Street SE.

"He didn't rush," he said. "He took his time . . . like he didn't do nothing. It was like a normal day at the office.

"That's what hurt me the most. I could have been dead and it was like nothing to him."