Ronald Jones Jr. seemed to have a bright future. A former star quarterback at Norfolk State University, Jones, the only son of a retired D.C. police detective, had graduated in May with a degree in sociology.

That future -- and Jones's life -- were wiped out Friday night when he was slain in what police called a particularly senseless shooting stemming from a traffic dispute.

D.C. homicide detectives handle hundreds of slayings a year, and some hit closer to home than others. The slaying of Jones, 22, is one of them.

As the son of a D.C detective who retired last year after more than 20 years on the force, Jones was considered part of the police department's extended family. He was described as a nice, strapping young man -- 6 feet 4, 205 pounds -- who had been one of the stars of Norfolk State University's football team in 1988, his last year of eligibility.

"It's personal. It's always harder when it hits close to home," said homicide Detective Dwayne Stanton, a friend of Jones's father, Ronald Jones Sr. "It's always like a stiff punch, but this is like a knockout punch."

Jones's mother said last night that many people assume when they hear a young black man or woman is shot and killed that the victim was involved in drugs. Her son was not, she said.

His father said, "I'm at a loss to describe the emptiness we all feel."

Adding to the tragedy is the senselessness of the shooting, Stanton said.

According to police, Jones was driving three friends in a Ford Escort when he was cut off by another driver on Massachusetts Avenue near Fifth Street NW.

Words were exchanged, and the driver of the other car pulled a gun and shot Jones in the face and chest and shot two of Jones's friends as well. The three were taken to Howard University Hospital, where Jones died.

The other two victims, whom police declined to identify, were in stable condition at Howard University Hospital. Police had no suspects.

Jones, a 1984 graduate of Woodson High School in the District who was living in Clinton this summer, was on the Norfolk State football team for four years.

"He was a great person, a great kid, very intelligent and articulate," John Holley, Norfolk State sports information director, said last night. Tom Morris, an assistant football coach at Norfolk State, said Jones had told him he was planning to enroll in Howard University's law school this fall.

Holley said Jones was chosen by fellow students to give a speech at an annual sociology department alumni banquet just before graduation. When he finished his speech, Holley said, Jones stepped down from the lectern and embraced his father.