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Police Identify Man Who Allegedly Shot and Killed Officer During ‘Large Family Disturbance’

Sonny Thomas Almanza (left), and Officer Dillon Michael Vakoff.

Sonny Thomas Almanza (left), and Officer Dillon Michael Vakoff.

Cops have identified the man accused of shooting and killing Officer Dillon Michael Vakoff, 27, as Sonny Thomas Almanza. The Arvada Police Department in Colorado said Monday that the suspect remained at a local hospital in custody, but they plan on booking him into the Jefferson County Jail.

Officers said they got an arrest warrant for charges including first-degree murder of a peace officer, possession of a weapon by a previous offender, child abuse, and crime of violence.

Vakoff and another officer were dispatched to a well-being check on two children Sunday at around 1:41 a.m.

“When officers arrived in the 6700 block of West 51st Avenue, they encountered a large family disturbance,” cops said. “The officers arrived to a chaotic scene with multiple people in the street. When the officers tried to separate several belligerent and uncooperative individuals, the suspect began to fire and shot a female victim. An exchange of gunfire then occurred between officers and the suspect. The suspect fired, striking an Arvada Police Officer, killing him.”

Police have said that the second officer tried to save Vakoff, including by providing first aid, but the 27-year-old was declared dead at a hospital.

The second officer is on administrative leave after the shooting, sources familiar with the investigation said, according to The Gazette of Cedar Rapids.

“It is with a heavy heart & deep sorrow that we inform you an Arvada Police Officer has been killed serving his community,” cops wrote Sunday. “The officer was responding to a call for service when he was killed.”

The suspect, who also got hurt during the shootout, was sent to a local hospital was expected to survive, cops said. The injured woman was also expected to survive after being sent to a hospital, officers said.

“This is still an active ongoing investigation, and we are limited in what we can release,” police said Monday.

Vakoff was a local. He graduated from Ralston Valley High School in 2012. He reached the rank of staff sergeant during six years with the U.S. Air Force, authorities said. He joined the department in 2019.

“Dillon is an example of everything good you would want in a police officer,” cops said. “He was training toward being a SWAT Officer, and without a doubt would have continued to have a positive impact on his community.”

You can make a tax-deductible donation here, police said on Sunday.

Multiple police departments have been loaning their officers and patrol cars.

“Everybody wants to help,” Wheat Ridge Police Department Division Chief Jim Lorentz told the Gazette. “It’s a punch in the gut because many of us knew Dillan. And even if you didn’t know him, there’s a kinship with other law enforcement officers.”

[Images via Arvada Police Department]

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