A shopkeeper was shot and killed last night during an apparent attempt to rob him as he closed his small corner grocery store in the LeDroit Park neighborhood of Northwest Washington, police said.

A brown paper bag containing fruit juice, potato chips and other groceries the victim apparently was carrying had spilled across the entrance of the "You Street Market," at First and U streets NW, after the 10:15 p.m. shooting. An orange-and-white plastic Thermos that the victim also may have been holding had rolled a few feet past the doorway.

The man, whose name was withheld pending notification of relatives, was taken to Washington Hospital Center in critical condition and pronounced dead before 11 p.m. He had been shot in the head.

"We're still trying to piece it together," said police Capt. J.F. Coffey. "It's like a jigsaw puzzle, but there appears to have been a confrontation during an attempted robbery."

Police said they did not know whether any money or valuables had been taken from the victim.

Officers searched the area around the store after the shooting, but no arrest had been reported by early this morning.

Neighbors said the storekeeper was well-liked in the community.

"I still owed him money on credit," one man said.

"It doesn't make sense," a woman said. "This man was good to the community. If you were 10 cents short or 50 cents short, he'd let you just sign your name and pay another time."

The slaying was the second fatal shooting in two nights in LeDroit Park.

Steven Sturges, 22, of the 1600 block of Marion Street NW, was shot in the head and chest near Marion and P streets NW about 8:45 p.m. Wednesday.

Police said they had no suspects in either shooting, and had little luck questioning neighbors who gathered in small groups on the sidewalks after each incident to watch the flashing lights and bustle of detectives and ambulance personnel at work.

"Nobody heard nothing," one 5th District officer called to another after last night's slaying. "But, then again, they never do."