One second it was a parking lot full of children -- children crowded around the ice-cream truck that comes on warm days when school is out, children chasing each other in fun or carrying groceries out of a nearby store for their parents.

The next second it was "a human shooting gallery," said Leroy Jackson, one of dozens of residents who said yesterday they were still nervous about going outside a full day -- and no apprehended suspects -- after a Friday afternoon shooting rampage.

Three men, armed with semiautomatic weapons, came from behind the apartments on K Terrace NW, firing, it seemed to witnesses, at everyone in sight: the children; elderly women sitting on benches; the dozen young men playing craps on the sidewalk outside the Warehouse Supermarket, where the women and men from the apartments surrounding the parking lot come and go all day long.

"It was like a flood, like a riot," said Robert Moses, a grocery store employee. "Everyone was falling to the ground, getting out of the fire."

When the rapid pop, pop, pop of gunfire stopped some 40 long seconds after it began at 5 p.m., three bystanders were wounded. Tysean Jones, 21, was listed in stable condition at Washington Hospital Center after having been shot in the face. Friends said yesterday he was leaving the grocery store, his 2-year-old daughter in tow, when a bullet struck him. Dazed, he ran across the parking lot to a police car that had been on the scene when the shooting began. His daughter lay on the ground near the store door until it was over.

Linda Marant, 31, who was identified by residents as a U.S. Census worker, was hit in the thigh. A bullet struck Darryl Snow, 20, in the ankle. Both were released from the hospital yesterday.

Witnesses said the gunmen fled back among the buildings from which they had appeared.

Police, who recovered a Tech-9 semiautomatic weapon, said they knew of no motive for the shooting and have made no arrests.

Residents of the apartments surrounding the parking lot off K and First streets NW near Union Station, complained that there was little police presence in the neighborhood a day after the shootings.

It was the kind of shocking, random violence, they said, that they will never get used to.

Children and adults alike remained deeply shaken by it all.

Brothers Donte and Jason Jones, both 11, were doing backward flips behind their apartment when they saw two men run past them and into the parking lot with guns, they said yesterday.

They heard shots and tried to go into the parking lot to find their father, they said, but became too scared, so they headed across the street to a school.

"I was thinking about my mother and father," said Donte.

"I was crying because I thought my father was shot," said Jason. "My father yelled, 'Go back,' and my mother was shouting, 'Don't shoot my baby.' "

Their mother, Theresa Jones, had just sent her 15-year-old son to the store for groceries when the shooting began. Sitting on her porch, she watched as two gunmen ran from behind her building out between two cars near where the crap game was being played. A third gunman, she said, came from behind the other side of her row of apartments.

"I just started hollering," said Jones. "I had a child out there and I went into a shock, the kind of shock that it doesn't faze you that they are shooting" because what she wanted most was to get her kids.

Seconds later Tysean Jones, a cousin, stepped out of the grocery store front door, which also faces the parking lot. His 2-year-old daughter was at his hand. He was struck in the face and instantly ran in the direction of a police car parked about 50 feet away. The child lay down near the door.

D.C. police Officer Neva Taylor was nearby writing a report on a traffic accident when Jones ran in her direction with blood on his face, police said. Taylor told the man to hide behind her squad car and radioed for assistance.

Meanwhile, Keyawana Hunt, 10, who had been walking to an ice-cream truck parked in the middle of the lot, heard what she said sounded like firecrackers. When she saw blood on Jones's face, she realized the sound wasn't firecrackers, and fell to the ground.

"I ran and fell, laid on the ground," Keyawana said. "They were just shooting all around. They didn't care who they shot."

Thomas Hall saw one friend lying by a short retaining wall near the ice-cream truck, taking cover with three or four other people. There was another child sprawled on the grass, hoping the bullets would miss him. A woman waiting for a bus also hit the ground. Dozens of others, many of them children, ran into the nearby high-rise apartment building on K Street.

Tony Butler, the ice-cream truck driver, had just given a woman change for a dollar when he heard two pops, and assumed they were fireworks. Then he heard a rapid-fire sound he knew was no toy and hopped into the truck's cab.

A 5-year-old, on his way to the truck, was left alone near it as the gunman first headed in that direction. For some reason, presumably because they realized they were running toward a police car parked nearby, the gunmen headed back in the direction from which they came, their weapons discharging as they went.

Theresa Jones said she saw a third gunman run in between apartment buildings to the side of her own, firing as he went. Police have said there were two gunmen.

"I was scared to death. I laid on the floor of the truck until I heard police," said Butler. "Then I just started {the ice-cream truck} up and drove off. I ran a red light and didn't even stop."

The panic and fear did not stop when the shooting ended.

Jason and Donte Jones, who had by then run up to a nearby fence, were crying out for their mother.

"They were standing there shaking and crying," said Theresa Jones. "They were scared to come back around here even after the police got here."

"Do I get used to it?" she added. "No, I don't, because I have kids. I can't tell them not to go in front and play. I can't keep them in the house all day. I am fearful for my kids."