The slaying of a Northeast Washington man yesterday who was gunned down while he waited inside a barbershop to get his hair cut pushed the number of homicides in the District in January to 32, equaling the largest number of killings in a single month, with four days remaining.

The barbershop slaying and another killing earlier in the day were both drug-related, police said, as were 60 percent of homicides committed in the District last year.

The last time the number of slayings in the District was as high was December 1971, police said. At the same time last year, 14 homicides had been committed, they said.

The monthly increase continues the overall trend that surfaced last year, when 227 slayings were committed, the highest number recorded since 1975. An unprecedented number of the 1987 killings -- nearly 100 -- were unsolved by the year's end, and most of those were drug-related.

"This {monthly figure} is unprecedented," said D.C. homicide Lt. Charles Bailey. "It's incredible."

Bailey, the homicide squad's No. 2 man, said that the growing number of homicides is straining the department's resources, and said officers from the city's seven police districts will have to be detailed to the homicide squad to help with investigations.

Homicide detectives have been complaining for months that part of the approximately $6 million in overtime that has been spent on Operation Clean Sweep -- the department's crackdown on street sales of drugs -- would have been better spent paying detectives overtime to solve homicide cases.

The escalating number of drug-related slayings comes at a time when Clean Sweep is being retooled because of its high overtime costs, and Mayor Marion Barry is fashioning a new offensive to combat the drug war.

That drug war most likely led to the death of William Lee Goins, 22, of 302 34th Place NE, who was gunned down in Greggs Barbershop at 1909 Seventh St. NW about 11:40 a.m, police said. He was taken to Howard University Hospital, where he died about 30 minutes later from several gunshot wounds.

Police said that four or five other customers were in the barbershop at the time of the shooting. A man, whose face was hidden by a tan hood or ski mask, walked into the shop, aimed a handgun at Goins and fired several shots, then turned and walked out, police said.

Blood was splattered across the barbershop wall, and a pool of blood covered the floor in front of the chair where Goins was sitting.

Police said they had no suspects in the shooting, but thought it was a retaliation slaying.

"It looked like a damn execution," said a police official. "It looked like a hit." Drug "hits," as police call them, have become commonplace, they said.

Police said Goins had been a witness in other drug-related slayings.

Earlier in the day, a 25-year-old man was found in the basement apartment of a Northwest Washington home suffering from gunshot wounds he received in what police described as a drug-related shooting based on interviews with neighbors. Police say the shooting was unrelated to the barbershop killing.

The man, whom police would not identify because his relatives had not been notified, was discovered at 10:17 a.m. in his apartment at 5913 16th St. NW. He died shortly afterward, police said.

Homicide detectives said they are looking for two men, whom witnesses saw fleeing the apartment.