LOS ANGELES (AP) _ An off-duty police officer shot a gunman to death when the man allegedly threatened a service station attendant and fired at the officer after an argument over payment for gasoline.

The shooting of Russell Woodard, 25, happened on the eve of the first anniversary of the April 29, 1992, riots, which began in the South Central section about two miles from Wednesday's shooting.

A crowd gathered after the shooting. Some people had to be restrained, police said, but the scene eventually quieted down overnight.

Officer Robert Grant also was pumping gas at the station in the city's South Central section when he noticed a man brandishing a pistol shortly before midnight, said police Lt. William Hall.

Grant, 30, was in civilian clothes and had stopped for gas on the way home from work when he noticed the motorist and station attendant arguing.

The attendant said Woodard pumped more gas than he paid for, said Lt. David Rock. A passenger in Woodard's car handed him a .22-caliber pistol and Woodard was waving it around, Hall said.

''Fearing the attendant would be shot, the officer identified himself and attempted to take the gun from the suspect,'' said Hall. When Woodard failed to give up the gun, the officer tried to grab it.

The man fired at the officer once and the officer shot the gunman twice in the chest with his 9 mm service pistol, Hall said.

Last year's riots were triggered by the acquittals of four white police officers on most state charges in the beating of a black motorist, Rodney King. Two of the four were later convicted on federal charges.

In Wednesday's case, both officer and motorist were black.

Sgt. Terri Tratreau said Woodard's passenger, Clarence McNealey, 23, was booked for investigation of murder and was held without bail.