Shot to death moments after arriving at a domestic disturbance near Denver, Colorado, Arvada Police Officer Dillon Micheal Vakoff, a US Air Force veteran, was honored during his Sept. 16, 2022, funeral with a flyover from a Boeing B-52 Stratofortress. Coffee or Die Magazine composite.
Arvada Police Officer Vakoff died in a shootout Sept. 11, moments after responding to a domestic disturbance in the Denver suburb. Authorities have charged career criminal Sonny Thomas Almanza, 31, with murdering him.
Vakoff was laid to rest Friday, Sept. 16, following the flyover and funeral at Flatirons Community Church in Lafayette. He was 27.
“You want to talk about somebody who will go out there every night and get after it, and wants to come to work, wants to go out there and help his community and just be out in the community? That's Dillon," Arvada Police Officer Donato Santos told Coffee or Die Magazine.
Dillon Vakoff's squad car was decorated with several mementos dedicated to him and his service with the Arvada Police Department. Photo courtesy of Don Rohacek.
A Ralston Valley High School graduate, Vakoff enlisted in the Air Force on Oct. 29, 2013, to become an elite pararescueman. But an injury during training steered him into aviation resource management.
His last active-duty tour was at Louisiana’s Barksdale Air Force Base, where he served in the 96th Bomb Squadron, the Red Devils.
Honorably discharged as a staff sergeant on Oct. 29, 2019, his decorations included an Air Force Commendation Medal, multiple Army and Air Force Achievement Medals, and a Humanitarian Service Medal for saving the lives of five people on Saipan in 2018 following the devastating super Typhoon Yutu.
He returned to Colorado and joined the police force in his hometown of Arvada. Santos told Coffee or Die that Vakoff’s humility was matched only by his dedication to “being there for other people, not just the citizens, but being there for his co-workers, as he was more than willing to help out anybody at our agency if somebody needed help.”
Dillon Vakoff's uniform with the Medal of Valor, the department's highest honor that he was posthumously awarded. His locker at the police station, located in the Westwoods Arvada Police Department station. Arvada Police Department photos.
Vakoff was also an avid weightlifter. His girlfriend — fellow Arvada Police Officer Megan Esslinger — told mourners Friday that he never skipped workouts, even for her.
Santos said Vakoff had been training hard to make the department’s Special Weapons and Tactics team. He told Coffee or Die the young officer was known for responding to a call only moments before his shift was supposed to end, and rushing to aid firefighters at a blaze.
Vakoff was the kind of cop who toiled every day to become a better officer, Santos added.
“I'll critique him more than anybody else about anything that we do because I care about him that much,” Santos said.
Dillon Vakoff adopted a flunked police K-9 named Nemesis. This photo was displayed for people visiting to pay their respects at the memorial. Photo courtesy of Ron Rohacek.
Vakoff was born on Dec. 28, 1994, to Dan Lammers and Lisa Vakoff.
He was preceded in death by his brother, Cody Vakoff; his grandfather, Bill Vakoff; and his uncles, Mike and Steve Vakoff.
He’s survived by his parents, his girlfriend, and his grandmother, Linda Vakoff.
Santos told Coffee or Die he’d always remember Vakoff for being a cop’s cop — with a high-pitched laugh that somehow bellowed out of the officer's very muscular body.
“I will miss so much being able to sit car to car and just hear this dude's laugh,” Santos said. “His laugh is unique to anybody else's. And we gave him crap about his laugh, too.”
Joshua Skovlund is a former staff writer for Coffee or Die. He covered the 75th anniversary of D-Day in France, multinational military exercises in Germany, and civil unrest during the 2020 riots in Minneapolis. Born and raised in small-town South Dakota, he grew up playing football and soccer before serving as a forward observer in the US Army. After leaving the service, he worked as a personal trainer while earning his paramedic license. After five years as in paramedicine, he transitioned to a career in multimedia journalism. Joshua is married with two children.
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