It isn't a bank anymore. A cleaners, a market and a Moto Photo now fill the space. But the cement stairs are still there, running up a steep hill to an alley in the back. Even after 28 years, they inspire memories in Tom Sigmon, and in me.

On May 25, 1971, a D.C. police officer named William L. Sigmon was murdered by one of three people who had just robbed a bank at MacArthur Boulevard and Arizona Avenue NW.

Officer Sigmon, who had been on a stakeout in the back of the bank, gave chase and was gunned down by a young man named Eros Timm, according to evidence later introduced at Timm's trial.

Timm and his accomplices escaped by car. They were captured a few minutes later on Connecticut Avenue, en route to an apartment on Porter Street that Timm shared with Heidi Fletcher. Heidi was the 20-year-old daughter of Washington's deputy mayor, Thomas Fletcher.

The case was a sensation from that first afternoon. I covered every word of it for The Washington Post over the next year. The assignment took me all over the country as I reconstructed the lives of Heidi, Timm and the third man convicted of Sigmon's murder, Lawrence Daniel Caldwell.

But no one from the Sigmon family had ever talked to the press -- until last month.

One morning -- May 25, as it happened -- I was hunting through a blizzard of incoming e-mail messages. I found one from Tom Sigmon. He had discovered my name atop some of the yellowing coverage of his father's death.

We arranged to meet so he could ask me a few questions -- and so I could ask him even more.

Tom Sigmon was 9 years old on the day his father was shot by Timm, as Timm stood on the stairs that run up toward the alley.

Tom was in the fourth grade at the time. He remembers that the pastor of his family's church, Robert E. Fleming, and the principal of the school came to fetch him from his classroom and drive him home.

"It was only 1 p.m. I thought that was very odd," recalled Tom, now 37, the father of four children and the stepfather of two more.

When Tom got home, to 904 Gilbert Rd. in Rockville, several unmarked police cars were parked in front, and the house was crawling with police officers. "My mother was crying uncontrollably," Tom said. "I said, `What's going on?' She couldn't even tell me."

Tom Sigmon manages commercial property for a management services company. He lives in Remington, Va., about 15 miles south of Warrenton. "I have a great life," he told me.

"But every year, during May, I change from an extrovert to an introvert," he said. The reason is the anniversary of his father's death.

Tom said he suffered "lots of nightmares" right after the murder. "I would relive that day, the scene in our living room," he said. "The child in me kept saying, `Any minute, he's going to come home.' "

As a young adult, Tom gave serious thought to becoming a police officer himself. But his mother opposed the idea vigorously. Eventually, Tom chose retailing, then construction, then his current field.

What finally nudged him away from law enforcement? "I was worried that maybe I would [shoot someone]," he said. "Would it be to avenge him?" He was also concerned that lightning might strike a second Sigmon police officer. "I would not ever want my kids to go through that," he said.

Who was William L. Sigmon, other than a 34-year-old face that the metropolitan area saw on front pages 28 years ago?

"Everybody knew him as a good guy," his son said. "He would lend a hand in a moment." Tom remembered that his father pitched in softball leagues, bowled six perfect games and liked to hunt and fish.

"He was quiet," his only son said. "Any time somebody says, `Hey, Dad,' I think of him."

Heidi Fletcher served nine years for her part in the murder. Timm and Caldwell were sentenced to life terms. Timm was slain in prison about 15 years ago. Caldwell has been an inmate at the federal penitentiary in Marion, Ill., since the mid-1970s.

Tom Sigmon bitterly criticized the three convicted killers for "taking somebody's father and somebody's husband away. There was no thought given that somebody's life was going to change from that moment on."

Asked what he misses most, Tom replied: "There's never a person you could call for advice. There's never a person you could say, `Hey, let's get together and watch a sporting event.'

"Always, there was nobody to call."

Tom Sigmon said he has visited the cement stairs just off MacArthur Boulevard.

"I felt like there was a presence there, something unfinished." he said. "When I walked around the area, I almost felt like I shouldn't be there."

Tom Sigmon keeps pictures of his father around his home. His youngest son, William, 17 months, is named for his father. Tom said the boy and his grandfather "actually do" look alike.

But they will never meet, and Tom said that will never sit well.

"I always feel like, `How dare they take that away from me?' " he said.