LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - A Salvation Army worker was shot and killed Christmas Eve in front of his three young children by a man who attempted to rob him outside the charity's community center in North Little Rock, a Salvation Army official said yesterday.

North Little Rock police said that they were looking for the two men who accosted Salvation Army Maj. Philip Wise outside the community center about 4 p.m. Thursday. No arrests have been made.

Wise, 40, had gone to the community center with his children to pick up his wife - also a Salvation Army major - to drive to his mother's home in West Virginia, said Maj. Harvey Johnson, area commander of the Salvation Army. As Wise neared the side door, two men approached.

Both men were carrying handguns, police said. One demanded money and shot Wise, Pulaski County Coroner Garland Camper told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Wise's wife, Cindy, was inside the center and called 9-1-1.

Blood stained the sidewalk outside the center yesterday.

The Wises had just adopted their children - ages 4, 6 and 8 - last year, Johnson said. The three were siblings who came from an abusive family. They were receiving counseling after their father's death, he said.

Wise had worked for three years in Baring Cross, a low-income neighborhood troubled by gangs and drugs, Johnson said. He ran youth programs, a food pantry and church services.

"He was involved in the fabric of that community in a lot of different ways," Johnson said.

He described Wise as "a big boy" who played "a big old tuba" in a brass ensemble and used his love of music to try to help others.

"He encouraged kids in music as an alternative to the life they were living," he said.

Wise was a native of Weirton, W. Va., and his wife, Cindy, was from Charleston, W. Va. They met 16 years ago at a Salvation Army school in Atlanta, Johnson said. Both had worked for the Salvation Army ever since.