The 5-year-old daughter of a Prince George's County police officer apparently was accidentally strangled by the straps of a purse while playing in her Seat Pleasant home Monday evening, police said yesterday.

The girl, identified as Nicole White, was strangled while playing in her home in the 900 block of Bending Branch Way, police said.

Police said the girl was pronounced dead at Prince George's Hospital Center just before 8 p.m. Monday after her mother found the girl hanging in the basement closet, her neck entangled in purse straps.

County police would not release the name of the child's father. Other sources identified him as Officer Devin C. White, who has been on the force for two years.

A police spokesman said the officer was on duty at the time of the incident and has taken a leave of absence. Lt. Andrew Ellis, a police spokesman, said the state medical examiner in Baltimore will perform an autopsy on the girl, but "at this point, we have ruled it an accident."

A woman who answered the door at the home where the child lived said yesterday that the family would have no comment.

Police said the girl was playing with her 6-year-old brother in the basement of the family home, a three-story town house, when she went to a closet to reach a purse that was hanging there.

Officials said the girl was standing on a toy chest in the closet, trying to reach the purse, when she slipped and got caught in the purse's straps.

The girl's brother alerted their mother, who was upstairs preparing dinner, according to police.

A man who was visiting his sister across the street said that shortly after 7 p.m. Monday, the mother brought the apparently lifeless body of the child outside, lay her down on a patch of grass and cried out, "Please someone help my baby! She's not breathing!"

At that point, Geoffrey Allure said, he summoned his sister, a dental technician trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and told her she should help the girl.

Allure said his sister, whom he declined to identify by name, raced across the street and performed CPR until paramedics arrived and took the child to Prince George's Hospital Center, where she was pronounced dead.