Three Alexandria police officers were stabbed early yesterday in Old Town during a struggle with a 17-year-old who was days from beginning his senior year at T.C. Williams High School, authorities said.

The 1:30 a.m. attack on a quiet block of Duke Street two blocks from City Hall took place moments after the officers tried to question the youth, whom one of them had seen peeking into parked cars with a flashlight.

The officers, who suffered serious wounds, were treated at hospitals and released, said Amy Bertsch, a police spokeswoman.

Authorities charged the teenager yesterday with three counts of malicious wounding of a law enforcement officer, a felony. Because he was charged as a juvenile, police did not identify him or provide his home address and would say only that an investigation into the triple stabbing continues.

Under Virginia law, prosecutors may seek to move a case from juvenile court to Circuit Court, allowing the defendant to be tried as an adult. Alexandria Commonwealth's Attorney S. Randolph Sengel said his office probably will file a notice of its intention to do that, but not before the teenager appears before a judge for the first time Tuesday.

"By that time, I expect that we'll have determined what course the case should take," he said, adding that prosecutors will evaluate the evidence and charges as part of the process.

Until the court appearance, authorities said, the suspect will remain jailed at the city's juvenile detention facility.

Authorities said the patrol officers were assaulted as they began questioning the teenager. A female officer who was patrolling in the 300 block of Duke Street first saw a young man peering into vehicles. After she called for backup, she asked him what he was doing, Bertsch said.

Other officers soon arrived, Bertsch said, and the questioning became a struggle, with the teenager pulling out a knife and cutting three officers, including the female who initiated the stop. She was cut in the arm. She and another officer, who suffered a wound to the neck, were taken to Inova Alexandria Hospital. A third officer suffered cuts to his abdomen and arm. He was flown to Inova Fairfax Hospital, where he underwent surgery, Bertsch said.

Each officer was wearing a protective vest, she said.

"It all happened so quickly," she said, "and we're not sure if the officers even knew he had a knife and what was going on."

One of the officers used pepper spray during the struggle in a brick alleyway near the St. Mary's Catholic Church rectory. But in the chaos and commotion, he missed the teenager, who escaped on foot, Bertsch said.

The suspect was found about two hours later hiding in an alley several blocks away, on South Columbus Street between Prince and King streets. He was taken into custody and charged later yesterday morning.

Several neighborhood residents said yesterday that they were awakened by the wail of emergency sirens and the hum of a helicopter overhead. The residents, who declined to give their names, said the block is tranquil and relatively crime-free, a benefit of living in an area that is frequented by tourists and heavily patrolled.