The men left the nightclub, some of them staggering. There were angry words, but then, one man remembered later, the argument was "squashed," and the men went back inside. Minutes later, however, one of the men was fatally stabbed as he walked away from the club, apparently by a man still angry from the earlier dispute.

Witnesses gave the account this week of the Saturday night slaying of Darryl Antonio Brown, 32, who was killed in the 6800 block of Georgia Avenue NW, 50 feet from the Office Lounge club he had just left and across the street from the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Brown was pronounced dead soon after. His death was ruled a homicide by Jacqueline Lee, the city's deputy chief medical examiner.

The stabbing took place directly in front of a large apartment building, in the Takoma neighborhood, which has had its problems with crime but is not used to this sort of violence.

"Georgia Avenue is grubby-looking and it's not inviting, but it's not known as a hotbed of decadent violent crime," said D.C. police Sgt. Judith A. Anderson, vice chairman of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 4A. Robberies and an occasional drug sale occur on the stretch of the avenue, but rarely homicides, she said.

The major activity on northern Georgia Avenue today is "just pedestrian traffic," said Alpha O. McPherson, president of the G-FEDDS Neighborhood Association (named after Georgia Avenue and the neighboring floral streets Fern, Elder, Dahlia, Dogwood), which operates an Orange Hat patrol in the area. The community has been relatively quiet since residents banded together to drive out the Fern Street Crew, a dangerous drug gang, in 1995, McPherson said.

As Brown lay dying on the sidewalk within sight of the Walter Reed hospital, two U.S. Army soldiers from the Army hospital attempted to staunch his bleeding until an ambulance arrived. One used his shirt to create a makeshift tourniquet, witnesses said.

The several blocks of Georgia Avenue that face Walter Reed have an amicable, yet somewhat remote, connection with the massive military hospital complex.

Neighbors for several blocks are used to hearing reveille floating over from Walter Reed. But Joseph H. Hairston, an Army veteran and chairman of the ANC, said there is generally little contact between community residents and the medical center's 10,000 personnel and patients. Beverly Chidel, a spokeswoman for the medical center, said the hospital sometimes provides short-term emergency care for civilians, and keeps neighbors abreast of any changes in the center's activities that might affect residents, such as changes in the traffic patterns.

Brown lived in the neighborhood. His mother, Flora Whorley, said he was "the type who didn't like confrontation. He had no problem walking away." She recalled a dedicated son who worked part time as a trash collector and cared for his deceased sister's three daughters. He had attended Cardozo Senior High School.

"He was the baby-sitter, the house cleaner, the fixer-upper," said Teresa E. Carter, Brown's sister and a sergeant in the 7th District.

A friend of Brown's, who asked not to be identified, said he and Brown went to the nightclub to celebrate the graduation of the friend's sister.

Brown was dancing with the friend's niece when another relative objected, saying they were dancing too close. The men thought they had resolved the dispute outside the club, but then, while Brown was leaving the club, another man ran up and stabbed him, the friend said.

Lt. Alvin M. Brown, head of the violent crimes unit at the 4th Police District and no relation of the victim, confirmed that an altercation at the club preceded the dispute and said Tuesday that police were still investigating the stabbing.

This week, James E. Somerville pointed to the blotchy blood stains on the sidewalk outside his apartment building--the macabre remains of the killing.

Somerville had the grim task of telling his neighbors about the death. "A lot of them knew nothing about it 'til today," he said.