A 36-year-old woman was fatally shot and two men were seriously wounded yesterday afternoon when a man opened fire on a Northeast Washington street.

It appeared that the woman, identified by relatives as Janice Short, the mother of three daughters, was hit unintentionally while on a visit to celebrate her birthday.

A man who identified himself as a relative of Short's said her mother lives in the Eckington neighborhood, in the 300 block of Seaton Place NE, where the attack occurred.

He said Short, whose 37th birthday would have been tomorrow, was to join relatives for an early celebration.

He called her "an innocent bystander" in the attack, which occurred about 4:40 p.m.

Sgt. Joe Gentile, a D.C. police spokesman, said last night that investigators reported "no evidence to indicate that she was the intended target."

Investigators said they knew of no motive in the attack and had not determined who the target was.

"She was just sitting there talking to the two dudes," the relative said. "She was just visiting my mother. She was in the wrong place at the wrong time. That's all."

The relative said he was on the street at the time of the shooting and saw what happened.

He said he saw the gunman "come out of the alley, and he started shooting."

The relative said the gunman was wearing black clothing and a hooded sweatshirt. His face was not visible, he said.

Gentile said one that of the wounded men was 31 and that the other was 22. They were standing near a car on Seaton Place when, according to accounts given to police, a man crossed the street and began shooting.

One bullet struck Short in the back. She was taken to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

The two men were reported hospitalized in stable condition, Gentile said.

A woman who lives in the area, which is just east of McKinley Technology High School, said she was in her house when the shooting occurred.

"All I heard was the gunshots, and I ran outside and all I saw was two bodies on the ground."

She said she understood that the older man was the younger man's uncle.

Police asked anyone with information to call them at 202-727-9099. They said a reward of as much as $25,000 is offered to anyone providing information that leads to an arrest or conviction.