Two women were shot fatally and two were wounded in a Mount Pleasant area apartment last night in what police sources described as an execution-style shooting apparently witnessed by four children.
The shooting, which police said may have been carried out with an automatic or semiautomatic weapon, occurred about 7:30 p.m. in a second-floor apartment at 1436 Meridian Place NW.
Police said the victims appeared to be in their twenties or early thirties and said at least one had been bound. The children, believed to be aged 1 to 4, were apparently unharmed. One of the adult survivors was shot in the left arm, but the other woman received head or chest wounds, police said.
None of the four women was identified immediately, although a source said there was evidence that at least one may have been Jamaican.
Available information indicated similarities between last night's shooting and two others in the Washington-Baltimore area in the past two years that authorities have linked to Jamaican narcotics dealers.
A police source indicated that last night's shooting may have followed an argument, but no other information about a possible motive had been released.
Police declined to label the shooting drug-related.
In a statement early today, police said that they were seeking four suspects.
According to a preliminary account of last night's incident, the four women were taken into the single bedroom of the apartment and shot.
Afterward, the woman who was shot in the arm ran to a nearby apartment to call for help. When police arrived, they found three women in the apartment. One of them was lying on a bed.
The four children were also in the bedroom, according to a police source. They were taken to the police Youth Division last night.
The woman who had been shot in the arm was taken to Howard University Hospital, where she was reported last night in satisfactory condition.
Two women were taken to the MedStar unit of the Washington Hospital Center. One was pronounced dead a short time after her arrival. The other was reported in critical condition and under treatment last night.
Little information was available last night about the victims, but neighbors said the apartment was frequented by what appeared to be many visitors.
The five-story building in which the victims were found was renovated recently, according to residents. Many tenants had moved in within the past three months, they said.
Meridian Place NW intersects 14th and 16th streets about 2 1/2 miles north of the White House. Most of it lies just east of the strictly defined boundaries of the Mount Pleasant neighborhood.
Investigators said that shell casings found at the scene indicated that an automatic or semiautomatic weapon was used. Such guns generally eject spent cartridges.
There are similarities between last night's shooting and one last month in Landover, in which five people, at least some of whom had come to this country from Jamaica, were shot fatally in the head and chest.
Police have obtained arrest warrants for three Brooklyn, N.Y., men in connection with that incident.
Also, authorities have connected the July 1986 execution-style killing of five persons in an apartment in Baltimore's Pimlico neighborhood to Jamaican drug activity.
The two deaths last night brought the number of homicides in the city this year to 49. Homicides have occurred here this year at a rate 50 percent higher than last year, when 228 homicides were reported.