It started as an argument, one man in the store on Bladensburg Road NE having words with the employees. Then, according to a customer, a second man came in and "didn't say anything -- he just started shooting."

When the shooting stopped moments later, five people had been wounded in the Taijiang Carryout in the 1000 block of Bladensburg Road.

It was one of the most violent incidents of the new year in a city plagued by violence, sometimes provoked by little more than a hard look. "It wasn't a robbery," said a customer who wasn't wounded. "It was just words."

Police said one of the victims was shot in the chest in the 10:15 p.m. incident. The man, whose name was not released, was reported in serious but stable condition last night at Washington Hospital Center.

Two of the others were shot in the hand and the others in the leg, police said.

Three of those shot worked at the carry-out. The others were customers, police said.

The man who began arguing and the man who did the shooting both fled and were still at large late last night.

Police Capt. James Coffey said the shooting occurred after two men walked into the carry-out, which is on a commercial strip that includes a church, a liquor store and a beauty shop.

One of the two began arguring angrily with one of the employees, Coffey said.

One of the customers remembered the incident with a slight difference, but with emphatic vividness.

One man was in the store arguing and the other stood outside, said the woman, who declined to give her name. When the man who was outside heard raised voices, he came in.

"He just came in and started shooting," the customer said.

"He didn't say 'hi.' He didn't say anything. He just started shooting."

Police found four people wounded inside the carry-out. The fifth was outside. None of the victims' names were released.

The two victims who were shot in the leg, a man and a woman, were taken to Howard University Hospital. They were reported in stable condition there last night.

The other victims were taken to D.C. General Hospital. Police said they were not believed to be seriously wounded.