An 89-year-old woman living in the Cleveland Park neighborhood of Northwest Washington was shot and wounded last night when she went to answer the door of her home, D.C. police reported.

The woman, identified as Lena C. Nead and described by neighbors as a retired lawyer, was taken by ambulance to Georgetown University Hospital, where a spokesman said she was being treated in the emergency room last night. Her condition was listed as satisfactory.

A 2nd District police official and a neighbor of the woman said the shot that wounded her in the upper chest may have been fired through the mail slot in the door of her home in the 3500 block of Ordway Street NW.

There was no immediate indication of a motive for the shooting, which neighbors called rare and unusual on what has been a particularly quiet street.

Based on accounts from neighbors and the police, the woman apparently went to the door of her two-story, red-brick, colonial-style house in response to a knock, but did not open the door.

Police said the shooting occurred about 8:10 p.m. At about that time, one neighbor said, he heard a popping sound that "sounded a little like a bullet."

He said the noise sounded little different from the report made by the cork of a champagne bottle, but it was apparently unheard by others in the area.

One neighbor said he understood that the woman at first believed she might have been stabbed, but that police apparently found a cartridge or spent bullet.

A 2nd District police official declined to comment last night on what evidence might have been found.