A 28-year-old Northeast Washington man apparently shot himself to death yesterday after threatening his aunt with a handgun and then later refusing a police order to drop the weapon, D.C. police reported.

Police said they fired one errant shot at Exavier Peterskins in his home at 3021 24th St. NE after he waved a chrome-plated revolver at them. Peterkins than ran into a second floor bedroom of the home and police said that months later they believe he shot himself in the left temple.

Not knowing for sure if Peterkins had killed himself, police said they pumped three tear gas canisters through a bedroom window from the outside. After a few minutes, police said they entered the bedroom and found the man's body slumped against a radiator. They said the revolver was found near his body.

D.C. police Capt. Philip O'Donnell said the errant police shot went into the second floor ceiling above where Peterkins was standing when he leveled his gun at three policemen.

Police said the dispute started about 11:15 a.m. when Peterkins, and unemployed carpet layer, threatened to shoot his aunt, Joyce Carter.

But police said she fled the house with her two children, William, 4, and Floyd, 3, and called police.

"He's never been a volatile type of person," Carter said of her, nephew, who has lived with the Carters in their frame house for about five years. She declined to talk about the incident saying, "I'm just too shocked."

Carter's husband, William L. Carter, a D.C. policeman, said Peterkins and his family were asleep when he went to work at 6 a.m. Carter, who was called home when the incident occurred, said Peterkins "had problems all along" and had been an out-patient at St. Elizabeths, the District's hospital for the mentally ill.