Jermaine Daniel, a streetwise Washington youngster who attracted national attention two years ago when he was befriended by then-D.C. Police Chief Maurice T. Turner Jr., was shot to death yesterday near his Northeast apartment complex.

Daniel, 15, was struck in the chest by at least three bullets about 4:45 p.m. behind a building in the Edgewood Terrace Apartments in the 600 block of Edgewood Street NE, police said. He was taken to Children's Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Police sources and neighbors said it appeared Daniel was shot after arguing with an acquaintance over a girl. A 14-year-old from the same apartment complex was arrested about 8 p.m. in connection with the slaying.

The killing, one of five in the District since Tuesday, brought this year's homicide total to 35, four fewer than at this time last year.

Turner first encountered Daniel in the summer of 1987. Over the next few months they forged a close relationship, and the friendly, pudgy youngster often visited Turner at his office and his home.

Turner, who said in a 1988 interview that he treated Daniel like one of his own children, said he took pains to educate him about drugs. "I tell Jermaine I'll break his neck if I find him with drugs," he said.

But Turner's efforts were not enough, and Daniel was later arrested twice: on charges of selling marijuana in April 1989 and on charges of selling cocaine last year.

"I'm at a loss for words," Turner said last night after being told of Daniel's death by D.C. Police Chief Isaac Fulwood Jr.

Turner, who left the force in the summer of 1989 and who was defeated for D.C. mayor in November, said he always knew that Daniel was in danger of taking a wrong turn and described the youngster's death as "terrible."

Turner said that when he last saw Daniel, shortly before Christmas, he denied any involvement with drugs or crime. But for the first time since they had known each other, Daniel did not show up for dinner at Turner's home this Christmas, and Turner said he knew he was losing the youngster.

"He just had a love for the fast life," Turner said. "You wonder what else you could have done to assist him. Here is a kid you put your heart and soul into. You try to show him that he can survive. But he wanted the easy way out."

Turner met Daniel in June 1987 when Daniel, then a seventh-grader at Fletcher-Johnson Educational Center, came up to him at a barbecue. Turner recalled in a 1988 interview that he said to the youth, "Come by and see me sometime."

The next day Daniel did just that. "I caught a bus and asked a lady where the chief was," Daniel said six months later. "I wanted to stay out of trouble."

The chief and Daniel soon became friends. Daniel visited Turner often. He attended summer camp at Turner's expense, and Turner helped Daniel's mother, Diane Daniel, by buying him school supplies and clothes.

"The chief tried to do so many things with him," Fulwood said of his predecessor. "Everyone in the complex {the chief's office} knew and liked him . . . . You're devastated by a thing like this.

"Jesus, what is going on?" he continued. "Here's a 15-year-old kid who we knew. We knew him. He wasn't a number, he was flesh and blood. He joked with us, we talked with him . . . . The staff helped him with his homework. But he was just in a bad set of circumstances. Eventually the mean streets got him."

Daniel's father has been in and out of jail since Daniel was an infant, and is in Lorton prison on drug and murder charges, Turner said. Diane Daniels, Jermaine's mother, could not be reached last night.

News of the killing spread quickly through Edgewood Terrace, where residents expressed sadness that the youth they called "Fats" had died.

"You know Fats?" asked one woman talking on a public phone. "Well, they shot him. They shot him and he's dead."

Five teenage boys heading for the basketball courts at nearby Catholic University fought back tears when asked to describe their slain friend.

"He was all right. He was good. He didn't start trouble," said one 16-year-old, a ninth-grade classmate of Daniel's at Langley Junior High School.

Yesterday's slaying capped a bloody two days in which four people were killed within a mile of one another in Southeast and Southwest Washington in shootings that police said were unrelated.

Among the victims was a youth whose family heard of his killing over the telephone, when one of his friends bluntly delivered the news without elaborating.

Yesterday afternoon the family of Derrick D. Gilchrist, 15, kept a silent vigil in their Northeast home.

The killings -- within blocks of one another in and around the neighborhoods of Bellview, Washington Highlands and Congress Heights -- had and 7th District police running from one scene to another.

The first homicide was reported about 1:20 p.m. in the 200 block of Cromwell Terrace NE. Police responding to a report of an unconscious person found Douglas E. Dean, 60, who had been shot.

At 7 p.m. the first of four homicides in the 7th District was reported in the 4300 block of Halley Terrace. The victim was identified as Cecil Turner, 46, of the unit block of Darrington Street NW.

About 20 minutes later, police responding to a shooting report found Gilchrist fatally wounded in the 3900 block of Second Street SW.

At 9:30 p.m., police were called to the 4600 block of Martin Luther King Avenue SW.

There, police said they found Darrin Z. Edwards in a stairwell, fatally wounded. A wounded woman was found outside the building and taken to a hospital, where she was listed in serious condition yesterday.

At 4 a.m., police responding to the 4000 block of South Capitol Street SE discovered the body of an unidentified 19-year-old man who had been shot several times.

A short time later police arrested James A. Robinson, 31, of the 2400 block of Elvans Road SE. Robinson was charged with first-degree murder.

Staff writer Gabriel Escobar contributed to this report.