A police official said narcotics officers were justified in returning fire on a 92-year-old woman they shot to death after she shot them as they tried to serve a warrant at her house.

Neighbors and relatives said it was a case of mistaken identity. But police said the woman, identified as Kathryn Johnston, was the only resident in the house at the time and had lived there for about 17 years.

Assistant Chief Alan Dreher said the officers had a legal warrant and "knocked and announced" before they forced open the door. He said they were justified in shooting once they were fired upon.

As the plainclothes Atlanta police officers approached the house about 7 p.m., a woman inside started shooting, striking each of them, said Officer Joe Cobb, a police spokesman.

One was hit in the arm, another in a thigh and the third in a shoulder. The officers were taken to a hospital for treatment, and all three were conscious and alert, police said.

Sarah Dozier, identified as a niece of the woman, told WAGA-TV that there were never any drugs at the house.

"My aunt was in good health. I'm sure she panicked when they kicked that door down," Dozier said. "There was no reason they had to go in there and shoot her down like a dog."

Rev. Markel Hutchins, a civil rights leader, said Johnston's family deserves an apology.

"Of the police brutality cases we've had, this is the most egregious because of the woman's age," Hutchins said.

Hutchins said he would try to meet with Atlanta Police Chief Richard Pennington and would also meet with lawyers.