First Responders

B-52 Flyover Honors Beloved Veteran, Slain Colorado Cop

September 19, 2022Joshua Skovlund
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.

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.

Slain Colorado cop Dillon Micheal Vakoff was so beloved by his old US Air Force squadron, they did a B-52 flyover at his funeral.

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

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 cop

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 cop

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.”

Read Next: Paratrooper Shot Outside His Apartment Just Off Fort Bragg

Joshua Skovlund
Joshua Skovlund

Joshua Skovlund has covered the 75th anniversary of D-Day in France, multinational military exercises in Germany, and civil unrest during the 2020 riots in Minneapolis that followed the death of George Floyd. 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 earned his CrossFit Level 1 certificate and worked as a personal trainer while earning his paramedic license. he went on to work in paramedicine for more than five years, much of that time in the North Minneapolis area, before transitioning to a career in multimedia journalism. Joshua is married with two children. His creative outlets include Skovlund Photography and Concentrated Emotion, where he publishes poetry focused on his life experiences.

More from Coffee or Die Magazine
Military
‘Butter Butter Jam!’: Troops Loved, and Hated, the M249 SAW

For nearly 50 years, the SAW has played a major role in America’s wars. Now it’s being replaced by new weapons.

February 8, 2023Mac Caltrider
Coffee Or Die Photo
Military
Space Force Vows ‘Above and Beyond’ Cleanup of Maui Spill

Brig. Gen. Anthony Mastalir, the commander of the U.S. Space Forces Indo-Pacific, said a team will t...

February 8, 2023Associated Press
Coffee Or Die Photo
Military
Navy Releases First Photos of Chinese Balloon Recovery

In the newest images released by the Navy on Tuesday, sailors from Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group...

February 7, 2023Associated Press
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin speaks at the Pentagon in Washington, Nov. 16, 2022. Lawyers for a group of Navy SEALS and other Navy personnel who oppose a COVID-19 vaccination requirement on religious grounds want a federal appeals court to keep alive their legal fight against the Biden administration. Congress voted to end the requirement in December 2022, but vaccine opponents note that commanders can still make decisions on how and whether to deploy unvaccinated troops, under a memo signed last month by Austin. AP photo by Susan Walsh, File.
Military
Vaccine Litigation Lingers After Lifting of Military Mandate

Lawyers for a group of Navy SEALS and other Navy personnel who refuse to be vaccinated for religious...

February 7, 2023Associated Press
Armed Forces Service Medal
Military
Who Earns the Armed Forces Service Medal?

The Department of Defense honors heroism in combat in many ways, but there is also an award — the Ar...

February 7, 2023Noelle Wiehe
Soldiers carry the coffin of Eduard Strauss, a Ukrainian serviceman who died in combat on Jan. 17 in Bakhmut, during a farewell ceremony in Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, Feb. 6, 2023. AP photo by Daniel Cole.
Intel
Russian Forces Keep Up Pressue As Ukraine Anniversary Nears

Russian forces are keeping Ukrainian troops tied down with attacks in the eastern Donbas region as M...

February 7, 2023Associated Press
Chinese spy balloon
Military
Blown to Bits! Chinese Spy Balloon Blasted, Plummets Into Sea

The US Air Force downed the Chinese balloon that's been soaring over the US.

February 4, 2023Carl Prine
germany, european union, ukraine gas reserves
Intel
Ukraine Wants To Store Europe’s Strategic Gas Reserves

Ukraine maintains 12 underground gas storage facilities with a total capacity of about 31 billion cu...

February 3, 2023Nolan Peterson
  • About Us
  • Privacy Policy
  • Careers
Contact Us
  • Request a Correction
  • Write for Us
  • General Inquiries
© 2023 Coffee or Die Magazine. All Rights Reserved