Hundreds of people, including police officers from across Colorado, paid their respects Friday during a procession and funeral service for a Denver suburban police officer who was fatally shot Sunday while trying to stop a family disturbance.
Their hazard lights flashed, row after row of motorcycle police officers led the procession that included a hearse with Dillon Vakoff’s coffin at the Flatirons Community Church in Lafayette. Residents greeted the Arvada police officer along the way. Hundreds of agency officers from across the state attended, The Denver Gazette reported.
Inside the church were flowers draped with Vakoff’s personal mottos: “So others can live” and “Go get some”.
Megan Esslinger, Vakoff’s partner and police colleague, told the mourners that Vakoff loved family and dancing.
“He always wanted to dance with me even when there was no music,” Esslinger said, “at the zoo, on the street and at a baseball game.”
“Nobody tells you how that phone call hits you like a train,” Esslinger said of learning at 2:40 am that Vakoff had been killed.
Vakoff, 27, died in hospital Sunday after being shot and killed as he and another officer responded to a disturbance that spilled on a street outside a housing estate. He was the second Arvada police officer to be killed on duty in two years.
Sonny Thomas Almanza, 31, of Arvada, was arrested on first degree murder charges and other charges in Vakoff’s death. His first court appearance in Jefferson County is scheduled for Tuesday.
Vakoff and his colleague had been sent to check the welfare of two underage children when they encountered the disorder, police said. A suspect opened fire, injuring a woman, at which point officers returned fire, according to police chief Link Strate. The suspect then shot Vakoff, Strate said.
The suspect was injured by officers and taken to a local hospital. The woman allegedly injured by the suspect was also hospitalized and she should have recovered, police said.
Vakoff was the second officer to be killed on duty in as many years in Arvada, a city located 7 miles (11 kilometers) northwest of downtown Denver. In 2021, Officer Gordon Beesley, 40, was shot and killed in an ambush by a gunman wielding an AR-style rifle in downtown Arvada.
Vakoff was a US Air Force sergeant major, where he served for six years, before joining the Arvada Police Department in 2019. He was training to become a SWAT officer, police said.