D.C. police homicide detectives were kept busy with a late-night homicide New Year's Eve and one early yesterday morning as well.

Police said Darnell Ricardo Ward, 33, was found with a gunshot wound about 10:30 p.m. Thursday at the rear of McKinley High School at First and R streets NE. He was taken to D.C. General Hospital where he died shortly after. Police did not release a home address for Ward.

Early yesterday morning, police found Michael Saunders, 19, at First and N streets SW with what police called "an apparent gunshot wound." Saunders, who lived in the 1200 block of Half Street SW, was taken to D.C. General where he died about 4:30 a.m., police said.

Police said the Saunders killing "appeared to be drug related."

D.C. police closed out 1987 with 228 homicides, the highest number since 1975 when the city experienced 235 killings. Many of last year's deaths are attributed to the District's escalating drug market violence.

Police closed fewer homicide cases than expected last year. Nearly 100 of the killings in 1987 are unsolved and police say many of those are drug-related.

They attribute the unusually high number of open cases to the lack of cooperation from witnesses and the transience of well-armed drug dealers who travel to Washington from Baltimore and New York.