LOS ANGELES -- New Year's Eve revelers firing guns into the air turned parts of Los Angeles into what a policeman called "a battle zone," killing at least two persons, authorities reported yesterday.

Some of the thousands of bullets believed to have been fired in the air struck and killed two men, wounded another in the neck and left a girl, 13, with a bullet in her thigh, police said. Another man also might have been a victim of the random shootings, they said.

"It was like a battle zone. You could see gunsmoke in the air. You could smell it," officer Charles Wilson said. "It went on incessantly."

Numerous homes and vehicles, including a California Highway Patrol radio car, were left with bullet scars, despite numerous warnings from authorities to refrain from the dangerous gunplay that has become a holiday ritual.

A man, 24, whose name was withheld until relatives could be notified, was standing in front of a south Los Angeles building "minding his own business, and a bullet came down . . . hit him in the top of the head and killed him," police officer Larry Judd said.

A man, 23, standing at a corner south of downtown was killed shortly after midnight when a bullet struck the top of his skull, Sgt. David Torres said. Detectives believe the bullet was fired into the air by a New Year's celebrator, he said.

Law enforcement officials had pleaded with the public not to engage in the annual New Year's fusillade. Los Angeles police dispatchers reported 448 complaints of gunfire between 11 p.m. Thursday and 3 a.m. yesterday.