A D.C. police officer was shot and wounded last night after trying to question a man in connection with an attempt to tamper with an automobile, police said.

The officer, identified as Detective Anthony McGee, 34, was shot three times in the right leg about 9 p.m. near the 4300 block of Benning Road NE.

Authorities said the officer, whose injury did not appear to be life threatening, was being treated last night at Washington Hospital Center.

Police mounted an intensive search using dogs and a helicopter in the Capitol View section. As of late last night, the suspect had not been found.

Assistant Police Chief Jose Acosta said two detectives assigned to the 6th District were given a report about 9 p.m. of an attempt to break into a car on Banks Street NE.

According to Acosta, the two detectives, both in plain clothes, split up as they pursued a man from the vicinity. "I think the suspect shot at the officers first," Acosta said.

Another police spokesman said he understood that both detectives fired their pistols. It appeared that the suspect was not hit and apparently fled on foot, he said.

One resident of the area said she believed that she heard at least a dozen shots.

"It was like boom, boom, boom, boom," said Nikki Smalls. Shortly afterward, she said, she saw officers burst from the doors of the nearby 6th Police District headquarters, get into their cars and drive to the scene.