Authorities have arrested a suburban Denver man on first-degree murder and other charges in connection with the fatal shooting of a 27-year-old police officer over the weekend as he tried to end a major domestic riot.
Sonny Thomas Almanza, a 31-year-old Arvada man, was arrested on Sunday night with Arvada police officer Dillon Vakoff, police said in a statement released Monday. He was arrested by the police in connection with the shooting.
Vakov was shot and killed in a hospital on Sunday as he and another officer responded to unrest that spread on a street outside the residential area. He is the second Arvada police officer to be killed in the line of duty in two years.
Almanza, who was detained at a hospital, was recovering from injuries sustained in a shootout with Vakov and another officer earlier on Sunday. Arvada said he will be transferred to the Jefferson County Jail upon discharge.
Police said Vakov and his colleagues had been sent to check on the health of two underage children when they encountered the disease. Police returned fire after a suspect shot and wounded a woman, Police Chief Link Strate said at a news conference on Sunday. The suspect then shot Vakoff, Strate said.
The suspect was injured by police and taken to a local hospital. The woman, who was allegedly injured by the suspect, was also taken to hospital and is expected to recover, police said.
Almanza was arrested on charges including investigating first-degree murder, possession of a weapon by an ex-offender and two counts of molesting a child, police said. The department did not release any further details and said its investigation was ongoing.
In 2008, Almanza pleaded guilty to one count of assault with a deadly weapon, which led to aggravated assaults in neighboring Adams County, court records show. He was sentenced to six years in juvenile imprisonment instead of 15 years of conditional adult imprisonment.
Vakov was the second officer to die in the line of duty in the town of Arvada, 7 miles (11 kilometers) northwest of downtown Denver, in as many years. In 2021, police officer Gordon Beasley, 40, was killed by a gunman with an AR rifle in an ambush in downtown Arvada.
Local residents shocked by Wakov’s killing decorated a police car parked in front of Arvada’s city hall with flowers, the city lighting up a historic downtown water tower blue overnight. Messages of condolences came from state law enforcement agencies and officials, including Gov. Jared Polis.