City Councilman Marion Barry was fresh from a ceremonial luncheon of the Northwest Kiwanis Club where he had delivered a speech. Now he was headed for a 2:30 p.m. meeting of the Council's judiciary committee.

"Be careful," a uniformed guard at the District Building warned Barry. "There's a little trouble up there."

But Barry brushed aside the vague warning and took an elevator to the fifth floor. He stepped off, walked past the ornate Council chambers toward Council offices at one end of the hallway and saw a commotion.

"I heard two shots and dived to the right ," Barry said. "And then I felt a hot, burning sensation in my chest. I knew I'd been shot."

A third bullet in the volley had struck him just above the heart. Barry fell, staggered up and lunged toward the Council chamber, clutching his chest.

As he stumbled in, shocked faces swiveled toward him and then several persons rushed forward, helped him to the floor and tried to stanch the bleeding from his chest.

"The worst part was I didn't know my condition. I kept calling for a doctor," he said. Later at Washington Hospital Center. "People grabbed me and took off my coat."

Barry, 41, said he heard more shots as he waited in the Council chamber and saw several police officers in the building. But he never saw his assailant, he said. "I don't know who did it, and I don't know why," he said.

It took firemen 23 minutes to rescue the wounded Barry. An extension ladder was raised to a chamber window, and firemen hauled in a litter, strapped Barry to it and carried him down to an ambulance. He was rushed to the Hospital Center.

"He's a very lucky man," said Dr. Howard Champion, director of the hospital's shock trauma center who headed the operating team that removed a small-caliber bullet.

"The bullet stopped in front of his heart without penetrating bone, and there was no injury to the vital organ," Champion said.

Champion said the bullet apparently was fired from long range and ricocheted and thus did not penetrate the heart. Champion said the hospital was holding a 10-person response team on alert and making available an extra operating room.

Barry's wife, Mary, arrived at the hospital shortly after her husband. She said she relieved to learn her husband's injuries apparently were not serious.

Smiling but shaken, Barry spoke to a small group of reporters from his bed in the thirdfloor intensive care unit. He had a small bloodstained bandage over his heart.