A suspected drug dealer about to be searched for weapons was killed yesterday when he pulled a .357 magnum pistol from his waistband and pointed it in the direction of four D.C. police officers, all of whom fired their service revolvers, authorities said.

The man, one of about five suspects lined up against a wall, managed to fire at least one shot before he was struck in the chest and fatally wounded in the exchange, police said.

Authorities did not release the name of the man, who was 41, because his family had not been notified. A police official said the man had prior weapons charges, had been arrested for assault with intent to kill and was wanted for escape. Further details were unavailable.

Police said the shooting took place about 11 a.m. in the 5300 block of E Street SE, where police were summoned by someone who reported that people were selling drugs there. The first officers on the scene detained a group of four or five men and placed them against a wall, police said.

"They were getting ready to pat him down," one senior police commander said. "Instead of putting his hands on the wall, he put his hands inside his jacket and pulled out a .357 and pointed it at the officers."

As the other suspects scattered for safety, the four officers, standing just a few feet from the man, fired their service revolvers. Police said the .357 magnum and two spent shell casings were recovered, but it is unclear whether the man fired once or twice at the officers. The four officers said that at least one shot was fired in their direction, a police source said.

Several of the other suspects initially stopped for questioning were later arrested and taken to the homicide division. Their accounts of the shooting supported the version provided by the officers, the source said.

Once the homicide squad completes its investigation, the case will be referred to a grand jury for review. An internal police investigation also will be conducted.

The names of the four officers, all of whom are assigned to the 6th District, were not released by police yesterday. A senior police commander said the department's preliminary determination is that the shooting was justified because the lives of the four officers were threatened.