Darrick Evans admitted putting on a ski mask and carrying a gun into a Southeast Washington school last year. He said he was chasing a rival, but he wound up killing an innocent victim -- a 14-year-old boy.

Evans, 18, was convicted of first-degree murder and other charges yesterday by a D.C. Superior Court jury that did not believe his testimony that the shooting of Damion Blocker was an accident. He said he had given up racing after a 16-year-old youth and was uncocking the gun when it fired, hitting Damion in a stairwell.

Prosecutors debunked that version of events, saying Evans was so hell-bent on pursuing his target that he opened fire at Winston Education Center with no concern about anyone else. The killing took place Jan. 19, 1996, just as the last bell had rung and crowds of students were dispersing. Damion was in the school to pick up a 5-year-old cousin who was in kindergarten there.

"Any shooting is bad," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Oscar S. Mayers Jr., who tried the case in D.C. Superior Court. "When you go into a schoolhouse, it's too much. The kindergartners would have come out in three minutes."

The shooting outraged parents and community activists and for a while led to the posting of guards at the school, at 31st and Erie streets in the Naylor Gardens neighborhood. Although gunfire has occasionally erupted at city high schools, outbreaks of violence are rare at schools such as Winston, which is for students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade. About 1,500 people, including D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, attended Damion's funeral.

Damion, an eighth-grader at Roper Middle School, was a former Winston student and he enjoyed picking up his cousin and visiting with teachers, relatives said. He had arrived at the school moments before the shooting.

Prosecutors said Evans teamed up with another teenager -- William Arnell Batchelor Jr., 18 -- to chase the 16-year-old. Batchelor and the 16-year-old had been quarreling in the weeks before the shooting, authorities said, and Evans decided to step into the battle to help his friend. Evans testified that he did not intend to shoot the other youth, only to scare him.

Batchelor, who pleaded guilty to a charge of involuntary manslaughter, was a key government witness. He testified that he and Evans were chasing the 16-year-old when the youth ran into the school. Batchelor said he stayed outside the building while Evans went inside with the gun and continued the chase.

Mayers contended that Evans was still pursuing the 16-year-old when the bullet was fired. The shot grazed the 16-year-old in the arm, then hit Damion in the right shoulder. The bullet traveled through both of Damion's lungs and ripped into his heart before lodging in his back, doctors said.

Defense attorney Daniel W. Quillin said the shooting occurred because Evans didn't know how to handle the weapon. He urged the jury to convict Evans of manslaughter and gun charges, saying, "That is what this case is all about."

Evans, of the 2300 block of Good Hope Road SE, could face a life prison term when he is sentenced Aug. 8. Batchelor, of the 2500 block of 33rd Street SE, was given probation for his role in the murder.

Damion seemed to have a promising future, taking part in Project 2000, a program sponsored by Concerned Black Men to tutor and guide black youths. He also enjoyed school and played sports in neighborhood youth leagues.

The verdict came as a relief to his mother, Gail Blocker, who attended the proceedings daily with other relatives. She said Damion's sisters and brother, ages 5, 6 and 10, still ask her when Damion is coming home.

"They're asking about him a lot," she said. "I say he's in heaven."