Police believe road rage triggered a violent chase into a Georgetown clothing store Saturday night that resulted in one stabbing, four arrests and hundreds of shoppers and diners running for cover from a brandished shotgun.

The incident began about 8:20 p.m. when four Silver Spring men in a maroon Crown Victoria, heading east on M Street NW through Georgetown's typically jammed weekend traffic, tried to get through the intersection of M and 31st streets as a traffic light turned red, police said yesterday.

The car "nudged" a male pedestrian, said Sgt. Joe Gentile, a D.C. police spokesman. The pedestrian threw a plastic soda bottle at the car, and two of the vehicle's occupants jumped out and chased him into the Urban Outfitters store on M Street, police and witnesses said.

Inside the store, the pedestrian used a sharp object, perhaps a knife, to slash one of his pursuers across the chest and shoulder, Gentile said, adding that police initially thought two people had been stabbed.

After the stabbing, witnesses and police said, one of the occupants of the Crown Victoria, which then was sitting idle and blocking traffic in the middle of M Street, opened the trunk, pulled out a shotgun and began pointing it toward the store.

People walking along the sidewalk and diners in several nearby restaurants began to scream at the sight of the shotgun being waved, witnesses said.

At Mr. Smith's bar and restaurant, waiter Robert Kristiansen said he first learned of the danger outside when a customer came in shouting: "This guy's got a shotgun!"

The restaurant's staff ushered customers at the bar fronting M Street to a back patio, where they could exit to the adjoining alley if they chose.

Within minutes, police cars swarmed the block, and officers quickly cordoned off the area with yellow tape.

Gentile said the four men in the Crown Victoria resisted police attempts to control them, and all four were charged with assault on a police officer.

The men, who live within a few blocks of each other and all have addresses on Rosemary Hills Drive in Silver Spring, were identified by police as Rashard Raigns, 22, Keith Jones, 18, Reynold Hawkins, 24, and his twin brother, Ronald Hawkins. Gentile emphasized last night that no charges have been filed against any of those men in connection with the altercation.

Raigns, the man stabbed, was taken to George Washington University Hospital with injuries that were not life-threatening, police said.

Police said they found alcohol in the Crown Victoria, but Gentile said it is unclear whether the men were inebriated.

The pedestrian fled, and police do not know his identity, Gentile said.

He said police are asking that the man, who "appears to have been provoked," call officers at 202-727-9099 to help in the investigation.

Merchants said the episode created mayhem and panic along Georgetown's busy main street as the area geared up to celebrate a pleasant summer Saturday night. After police arrived, two blocks of M Street were closed to car traffic in both directions for three hours, and the sidewalks on the north side of the two-block stretch also were cordoned off.

"After all the police showed up, people were pressed against the windows to see what was happening," Kristiansen said.

He said it took as long as 10 or 15 minutes for police to control and arrest the four men in the Crown Victoria. Officers used pepper spray on some of the men, who then flailed about, pulling off their shirts to wipe their eyes, he said. He said one man tried to escape by rushing toward the door of Mr. Smith's, but the staff locked the door and watched as an officer grabbed him.

"Since it's summer, all the kids are coming out now and they're knuckleheads," Kristiansen said. "They're drinking; the tension's building up out in the traffic. They do something stupid."

A manager at Urban Outfitters who would not give her name declined to comment yesterday on the incident and said the store's employees would not discuss it.

The store's doors were locked just before 1 p.m. yesterday and carried a sign telling shoppers: "We will open later in the afternoon."