Eight men were shot to death in the District late Friday and yesterday, one of the bloodiest 24-hour periods in the city in recent years.

Several of the victims were shot at point-blank range, D.C. police said. In one case, two men were found dead inside a car handcuffed and with their heads wrapped in duct tape.

The violence raised the number of slayings in the District this year to 371. At this time last October, 352 people had been killed.

Details were scarce yesterday on each of the incidents, and it was not clear, police said, if any were connected. Homicide detectives said the slayings occurred so swiftly they barely had time to investigate them.

Police did not release the names of any of the homicide victims.

Police said they had no motive in the case of the two men found dead in the car, but that it appeared to be a gang-style slaying. The men were found about 1 a.m. yesterday in the back seat of a white Volkswagen parked in the unit block of Longfellow Street NE. The car's lights were on and its stereo was blaring.

"This is particularly vicious," said Capt. James Coffey, an officer in the 4th Police District, as he and other officers scoured the street for clues. Police said the victims may have been shot at another location, then brought to Longfellow Street.

"I've never seen anything like this. This is real bad. It's scary out here," said one veteran investigator. "It's the most professional shooting I've seen so far." Wrapping victims' heads in duct tape is an old tactic to muffle screams, he said.

An officer said the way the slayings were carried out was clearly meant to send a message.

The flurry of shootings began about 8 p.m. Friday, when a 31-year-old California man was found shot several times in the unit block of K Street NE. Four hours later, another man was found dead in the 4800 block of Texas Avenue SE.

Police said the man had been shot in the head and the chest.

About 4:30 a.m. yesterday, police found another shooting victim lying dead on the corner of 30th Street and Buena Vista Terrace SE. Police said he had been shot once in the head.

Yesterday about 2:30 p.m., outside a Northeast housing complex bustling with pedestrians, a man was shot several times and died on arrival by ambulance at Washington Hospital Center.

The man was shot near the corner of Hayes Street and Kenilworth Avenue NE, just outside the Mayfair Mansions Apartments -- which once had been home to one of the most violent curbside drug markets in the city.

People in the neighborhood say it has been much calmer since members of the Nation of Islam, calling themselves the Dope Busters, began patrolling there about two years ago.

"We haven't {had} anything like this in a while, especially in broad daylight," said one man, who declined to give his name. "It has been peaceful."

About 3 p.m., police responded to a report of gunshots in the 1900 block of Fourth Street NW, where they found a 22-year-old man suffering from multiple gunshot wounds. He was brought to Washington Hospital Center, where he later died.

About 9:30 p.m., another man was found fatally shot on Sligo Mill Road NE in what authorities described as an execution-style killing. They said the man was bound.

The Longfellow Street NE slayings unnerved some residents of the middle-class neighborhood, which is not used to violence.

One resident, Gary Smith, said he had lived in the neighborhood for 15 years and could not remember any other slayings there. "You think of this sort of thing happening somewhere else, not here," Smith said.

In the Mayfair Mansions homicide, witnesses reported hearing at least five shots, and said the victim was shot while standing next to a car. They said he ran about 30 yards before he collapsed in the grass behind a convenience store where a grand-opening celebration was being held.

Children and their parents watched intently as detectives investigated the shooting. At one point, a young woman leading her child home stopped to ask a neighbor if he had heard of the killing early yesterday on 30th Street SE. That victim, she said, once lived near Mayfair Mansions.

"Haven't heard of that one," the man said. "I've been watching this one."