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Arvada police Monday named a 31-year-old man a suspect in the fatal shooting of one of its officers over the weekend.

Arvada police Officer Dillon Michael Vakoff. (Handout)

Police say Sonny Thomas Almanza shot and killed Officer Dillon Michael Vakoff while he was responding to a call shortly before 2 a.m. Sunday outside a home near the city’s border with Denver and Wheat Ridge.

Almanza faces eight charges, including first-degree murder of a peace officer and attempted first-degree murder. After he is released from the hospital, Almanza will be moved to the Jefferson County jail, the department said. 

Vakoff, who was 27, was dispatched with other officers to the 6700 block of West 51st Avenue to check the well-being of two children, police said. When he arrived, Vakoff encountered what police described as a “large family disturbance” and a “chaotic scene” with multiple people in the street. 

As the officers tried to separate the “belligerent and uncooperative” people, Almanza shot a woman and then Vakoff, who was declared dead at a hospital, police said. The woman is expected to survive her injuries. 

Vakoff joined the Arvada Police Department in 2019 after serving in the Air Force for six years. He was a 2012 graduate of Ralston Valley High School in Arvada.

“Dillon is an example of everything that is good about a police officer,” Chief Link Strate said during a news conference Sunday, adding that Vakoff was training to become a SWAT officer.

Police said the shooting is an ongoing, active investigation and did not release any additional information. 

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Olivia Prentzel

The Colorado Sun — 619-607-5210oliviaprentzel@coloradosun.com Email: oliviaprentzel@coloradosun.com...