A mother hanging curtains in a window of her District Heights home was struck and fatally wounded last night by a stray bullet fired from across the street, Prince George's County police said.

The 39-year-old woman, whose name was not immediately released, was with her son and a nephew, both 9 years old, in a first-floor room of her house in the 6800 block of Walker Mill Road when she was shot in the upper body about 6:30 p.m., police said.

Police Chief John S. Farrell said the woman fell onto one of the boys, and her son called 911. She was pronounced dead at Prince George's Hospital Center about a half-hour later, a hospital spokesman said.

Police said it was unclear whether the bullet came from a gun battle or from one person firing at another.

Farrell said, "We've got a totally innocent mother at home with her children, just trying to do domestic work" when she was killed.

He said that the area is known for brisk crack cocaine sales but that it was unclear whether the gunfire in front of an apartment complex across the street was drug-related.

The chief, who went to the scene, said officers were canvassing the area last night for information. He appealed to residents of the neighborhood, a mixture of houses and apartment buildings, for information leading to the capture of a suspect. People were on the streets when the shooting broke out, he said, and should come forward.

"At this point, we don't have suspects," Farrell said about three hours after the shooting.

He said officers have been cracking down on the drug activity and crime in the neighborhood.

"We have been making arrests, working with the community to reduce some of the drug activities associated with crack cocaine in particular," he said. "We've had tremendous success, particularly in the area of reducing some of the violence in the past several months."

Police said they believed the gunfire came from the parking lot of the Foxglenn apartments, a three-story, garden-style complex surrounded by nearly six-foot-high wrought-iron fencing. The parking lot is next to a day-care center.

The property has a yellow sign warning: "This is a FIST property. Drug traffickers, beware!" The sign explains the acronym as "Families Insisting on Safe Tenancies," a partnership of the State of Maryland, the Foxglenn Apartments and the county. Four signs around the building warn against trespassing and loitering.

One resident of the apartments said of the shooting: "It's unbelievable. Everybody is in disarray." She said people were frustrated, and "I hope, fed up now."

Another woman said she visits the apartment complex a few times a week to check on her sister, who lives there. "Guys are always out here, every day," she said. "You can't even walk down the sidewalk half the time. If they're not selling drugs, they're smoking drugs."

Neither woman wanted to be quoted by name.

At the house where the woman was shot, a bullet hole the size of a small finger was evident in the window where she had been standing. The flowered curtains she had been hanging could be seen from the dwelling's neatly kept front yard as the investigation continued.

CAPTION: Police Cpl. Matt Meterko, at the home, talks to reporters. Police were unsure whether the bullet was from a gun battle or from one person firing at another.

CAPTION: The bullet that killed the woman came through a first-floor window, leaving a hole the size of a small finger.