Dawn Gordon was so looking forward to Christmas. The 11-year-old excitedly wrote her father a letter preparing him for her visit from Charlotte, N.C.

"Dear Dad," Dawn wrote a few weeks ago, " . . . the thing that I really want is a black Baby Heather doll. She has a 400-word vocabulary . . . and when she gets two years old she can stand up on her feet. When she hears you talking to her she will turn her head and look and you and she says let's play."

At James L. Gordon's house in Largo yesterday, the plans of Christmas faded. Instead, relatives and his ex-wife Marseeiah Gordon-Carter gathered around the kitchen table to make arrangements for his funeral Saturday.

In the next room was the harsh reminder of why they were all there. A jagged chunk was cut out of the light-gray carpet near record albums stacked in front of the fireplace. Police investigators had ripped out the blood-soaked piece of carpet where Gordon lay dying only 48 hours before.

Gordon, 40, a D.C. police officer for 17 years, was fatally shot in his Largo house Monday night by a Prince George's County police officer, Cpl. Robert W. Raimond, 27, who was responding to a neighbor's report of a burglary there.

Gordon apparently arrived home, not knowing about the neighbor's call, about the same time Raimond arrived outside to investigate the alleged burglary. Seeing the movement of a figure with a gun inside, Raimond called out "freeze," then fired one shot. Gordon was struck in the chest from seven feet away, according to county police.

"They didn't have to kill him," said a tearful Glenda Costner, Gordon's cousin. "They could have shot to impair him. That officer didn't even identify himself, from what I've heard."

Gordon -- or Lornell, his middle name, which his family uses -- was born and reared in Gastonia, N.C. He moved to Washington about 22 years ago, and after serving in the Army for about two years, he joined the D.C. police force.

"Lornell loved being a police officer," said his older sister Brenda, who lives in Lowell, N.C. Gordon also served in the Army reserve.

Gordon and his wife divorced four years ago, and she moved to Charlotte with their daughter Dawn. "Although our marriage didn't work, we parted as friends, and he was a special kind of person to me," Gordon-Carter said.

"We communicated on a regular basis, and he was an excellent father to Dawn," she said. "He gave her a lot of love. He told me that I didn't have to worry because she wouldn't want for anything. He spoiled her."

Gordon and his sister Angelita had just moved into the two-story white house in the Kings Creek development off Landover Road in July. A recent promotion also had afforded Gordon the silver-gray Mercedes-Benz in his two-car garage, she said.

"He liked nice things," said Angelita Gordon. "He wanted to live in a nice neighborhood. He was always a nice dresser."

Gordon's relatives painted him as a gentle and relaxed man who liked to play golf in his spare time and sing with Dawn. But they also said that, as a trained police officer, he was "very aware and alert" of everything around him.

"His adrenaline was probably going" Monday night, Costner said. "He probably thought that whoever was crazy enough to break into his home was still on the premises.

"It hurts. He was a great guy. I just can't believe he's gone."