Arvada Police Officer Dillon Michael Vakoff killed in line of duty

Officer Vakoff killed while responding to disturbance on 51st Ave; suspect in custody

Rylee Dunn
rdunn@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 9/11/22

An Arvada police officer was killed while responding to a disturbance on the 6700 block of West 51st Avenue before 5:30 a.m. Sept. 11. Dillon Michael Vakoff, 27, was identified as the victim of a shooting that took place in the early hours. 

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Arvada Police Officer Dillon Michael Vakoff killed in line of duty

Officer Vakoff killed while responding to disturbance on 51st Ave; suspect in custody

Posted

An Arvada police officer was killed while responding to a disturbance on the 6700 block of West 51st Avenue around 1:41 a.m. on Sept. 11. Dillon Michael Vakoff, 27, was identified as the victim of a shooting that took place in the early hours. 

Vakoff and another APD officer arrived at the 6700 block of West 51st Avenue in response to reports of a large family disturbance involving two minors. They found a "chaotic" scene with multiple people in the street, said Arvada Police Chief Link Strate during a morning press conference Sept. 11.

With the investigation still in the early stages, Strate said what is known is that initially two officers tried to break up the commotion, but a suspect — later revealed to be Sonny Thomas  Almanza — allegedly fired shots and hit a female victim, who was transported to a nearby hospital. Authorities said the female victim is expected to survive.

Strate said a shooting between the officers and the suspect followed, and Vakoff was allegedly shot in the exchange. 

Strate said the second officer on the scene tried to administer first aid.

Almanza, 31, was shot as well and was transported to the hospital, Strate said. He is expected to survive, and will be transported to the Jefferson County Jail once he is stable enough for transport. 

Almanza was charged with first degree murder, two counts of attempted first degree murder, possession of a weapon by a previous offender, two counts of child abuse and two counts of crimes of violence. 

Vakoff's body was transported to the Jefferson County Coroner's Office at 5:30 a.m. on Sept. 11. He was an Arvada resident and graduate of Ralston Valley High School in Arvada. Vakoff has been with APD since 2019 and was training to be a SWAT officer, according to Strate. 

"(Vakoff) was the example of everything that is good about a police officer," Strate said. 

APD Public Information Officer Dave Snelling said that since the investigation is in the early stages, all information is preliminary at this point. No questions were answered at the press conference, and Snelling said no more details will become available until Sept. 12 at the earliest. 

Arvada Mayor Marc Williams said the tragedy was especially difficult in light of the Olde Town Arvada shooting on June 21, 2021, just 15 months ago. 

"Obviously having two of these tragedies within 15 months is overwhelming," Williams said. "I am so sorry for (Vakoff's) family and those who cared about him. The entire Arvada Police Department is reeling and our community is feeling the pain.

"It unfortunately opens some not-too-old wounds," Williams continued. "It's important to recognize that these officers put their lives in danger each and every day and we are so thankful for what they do."

Gov. Jared Polis' office released the following statement on Sept. 11:

“My thoughts are with the family and friends of Arvada officer Dillon Michael Vakoff who was tragically killed in the line of duty while responding to a call. We will continue to monitor this situation.”

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