Two men were shot and fatally wounded and a bystander was shot in the arm early yesterday at an Adams-Morgan parking lot, apparently during an argument about remarks that several men had made to two women, D.C. police said.

The killings occurred about 3:20 a.m.--shortly after closing time for bars in the District--near the Colonial Parking lot in the 2400 block of 18th Street NW, amid a trendy strip of clubs and restaurants.

Police identified the dead men, both 28, as Ronald Taylor, of the 2200 block of Ontario Road NW, and Carlos Smith, of the 6900 block of Seat Pleasant Drive in Prince George's County. They said both men were shot in the chest.

A 33-year-old Arlington man, who apparently was not involved in the argument, was shot in the arm and treated at a hospital, authorities said. His name was not released because he is considered a witness, officials said.

The shooting suspect, described as a 5-foot-7, 140-pound black male with dreadlocks who was wearing Timberland boots, apparently ran through the parking lot into an alley, police said.

About 20 minutes later, police confronted a man fitting that description behind the wheel of a car in the 1800 block of Belmont Road NW. Police arrested him for failing to have a driver's license and then took him to 3rd Police District headquarters, where he was questioned for several hours before being released, Assistant Chief William McManus said. Another man in the car also was questioned and released, police said.

"We couldn't charge [the first man] due to lack of information at the time," McManus said at a news conference last night in the parking lot, just feet from where the shooting occurred. McManus said the man was being questioned again last night.

He asked that any witnesses come forward to identify the shooter and said Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction.

D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), who represents the area, said the incident "really underscores the need for greater police presence in the entertainment areas" of Adams-Morgan and the nearby U Street corridor. He called for authorities to increase patrols there.

Graham complained that officials consider the area a residential neighborhood rather than a tourist and entertainment magnet second only to Georgetown.

McManus said last night that the department planned to deploy more police to the area and that the FBI, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms had been asked to assist. Assistant Chief Ronald Monroe said D.C. police plan to make greater use of federal agencies at the start of homicide investigations.

A police official said the argument early yesterday started after five men said something to two women who took offense and went to get their boyfriends, Taylor and Smith. Taylor and Smith approached at least one of the men and complained that he had treated the women with disrespect, the official said.

A verbal exchange escalated, and the man pulled out a gun and began shooting, police said. Five shots were fired, a source said.

Ken Rego, 21, who was working at a nearby club, said a co-worker exclaimed, "Oh, my God, two people just got shot." Rego said he stepped outside, heard screams and saw people scatter. He saw two men lying in the street and tried to talk to one.

"He was trying to talk. He just kept coughing," Rego said.

Sidi Mohamed, a co-worker, said police usually are posted outside--"except last night."

Smith was pronounced dead at Washington Hospital Center. Taylor was taken to George Washington University Medical Center, where he died.

Graham said that he spoke early yesterday with Executive Assistant Police Chief Terrance W. Gainer about a greater police presence and that "Gainer said he understood the problem and would do something about it."

The council member said that police officials could not tell him how many officers were on duty in Adams-Morgan, as compared to Georgetown, but that they conceded Georgetown would have had more.

Graham described such shootings as "very unusual" in the area, which draws visitors from across the metropolitan area.

There has been a series of fatal attacks in the area. In February 1997, two men were shot and killed early one morning as they walked out of a 24-hour restaurant in the 1700 block of Columbia Road.

In August that year, two men were shot to death inside a restaurant in the 2400 block of 18th Street NW, just steps from yesterday's shootings.

The District's first murder of 1993 was of a woman leaving a gay club in Adams-Morgan about 2 a.m., in what gay rights groups called a hate crime.

Staff writer Cheryl W. Thompson contributed to this report.