A hospitalized Philadelphia police officer was in good condition last night after suffering a gunshot wound early yesterday morning as he responded to a gunfight in North Philadelphia.

Three other people were also wounded as gunshots rang out about 2:30 a.m. near Broad and Somerset Streets, and neighbors said the episode apparently began with an argument in a bar that escalated outside into a rolling gun battle over several blocks.

Officer Ashley Hoggard, 26, a three-year veteran assigned to the 39th District, was recovering last night at Temple University Hospital, where doctors had removed a bullet from one of his shoulders.

Lt. Frank Vanore, a police spokesman, said doctors described Hoggard as lucky in terms of the location of his injury and said he was expected to recover fully.

The case underscored the volatility of the streets and the wide availability of guns, and left neighbors angry and frustrated but relieved that Hoggard had survived.

"It was definitely a dangerous situation," Vanore said, describing a "massive" crime scene that extended over several blocks littered with shell casings. "We're very lucky that no one was seriously injured."

A number of neighbors said they were awakened by rapid gunshots fired over a fairly long period. Pop-pop-pop-pop - perhaps as many as 15 or 17 shots - said several people, who said they believed the situation became a moving gunfight. One woman said she thought the sounds had come from her TV.

"It was real loud," said Louis James, one of the few residents who would give a name. Most cited the omnipresent fear of retaliation as a reason for declining to be identified.

Vanore said police were interviewing people who were in the bar to determine what sparked the confrontation.

He said that one weapon was recovered from the back of a property in the 1300 block of Somerset Street, and that police were trying to determine how many gunmen were involved.

The three other people who were shot were hospitalized in stable condition, and Vanore said it was still unclear whether they were innocent bystanders or possibly involved.

Police cordoned off several blocks around the scene, and Broad Street was closed to traffic from Glenwood Avenue to Lehigh Avenue as the investigation continued hours after the shooting.

By late morning, the shooting remained the talk of the neighborhood, as residents gathered on front steps, talking in hushed voices about the burst of violence.

Several said police towed away a car parked at a service station, apparently because there were bullet holes in it.

The fight apparently exploded from the bar to the street, some neighbors said, as two men started shooting at each other, and the police officer was shot as he responded.

"The law is one thing, and living out here is another thing," said a woman who would not give her name out of fear of retaliation.