Procession, funeral held for slain Colorado police officer

LAFAYETTE, Colo. (AP) – Hundreds of people, including police officers from across Colorado, paid their respects on Friday during a procession and funeral service for a suburban Denver police officer who was fatally shot while that he was trying to put an end to a family disorder.

Their flashing hazard lights row after row of motorcycle police led the motorcade that included a hearse carrying Dillon Vakoff’s casket to the Flatirons Community Church in Lafayette. Residents along the road greeted Vakoff, a policeman from the town of Arvada, who was killed on Sunday.

Hundreds of officers from agencies across the state attended, The Denver Gazette reported. Inside the church were flowers draped with Vakoff’s personal mottos: “So that others may live” and “Go get some.”

Megan Esslinger, Vakoff’s partner and fellow police officer, told 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 after learning at 2:40 a.m. that Vakoff had been killed.

Vakoff, 27, died in a hospital on Sunday after being shot as he and another officer responded to a disturbance that spilled onto a street outside a housing complex. He was the second Arvada police officer killed in the line of duty in two years.

Sonny Thomas Almanza, 31, of Arvada, was arrested on suspicion of first-degree murder and other charges in Vakoff’s death. His first appearance in Jefferson County court is scheduled for Tuesday.

Vakoff and his fellow officer had been dispatched to check on the welfare of two minor children when they encountered the disturbances, police said. A suspect opened fire, wounding 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 police and taken to hospital. The woman who was allegedly injured by the suspect has also been hospitalized and is expected to recover, police said.

Vakoff was the second officer killed in the line of duty in as many years in Arvada, a town seven miles northwest of downtown Denver. In 2021, Officer Gordon Beesley, 40, was shot in an ambush by a gunman wielding an AR-style rifle in downtown Arvada.

Vakoff was a staff sergeant in the U.S. Air Force, where he served for six years, before joining the Arvada Police Department in 2019. He was training to become a SWAT officer, police said .

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