Colorado man hears charges in slaying of police officer

Officer Dillon Vakoff pictured in the middle. Suspect  Sonny Thomas Almanza picture in the...
Officer Dillon Vakoff pictured in the middle. Suspect Sonny Thomas Almanza picture in the upper right.(Arvada PD)
Published: Sep. 20, 2022 at 2:34 PM MDT
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GOLDEN, Colo. (AP) — A man accused of killing a Colorado police officer made a virtual court appearance from jail on Tuesday to hear formal charges filed against him.

Sonny Almanza, 31, faces first-degree murder charges in the Sept. 11 killing of Arvada Police Officer Dillon Vakoff, 27, who was shot while he and another officer responded to a family disturbance that spilled into a street outside a housing complex.

Prosecutors on Tuesday asked Jefferson County District Court Judge Russell Klein to unseal an arrest warrant affidavit that could detail the circumstances that led to the shooting. Klein set a Friday deadline for Almaza’s public defenders to object, The Denver Post reported.

Vakoff and his fellow officer were dispatched to check on the well-being of two minor children when they encountered the disturbance, police said. A suspect opened fire, wounding a woman, at which point the officers returned fire, according to Police Chief Link Strate. The suspect then fired at Vakoff, Strate said.

The suspect was wounded by the officers and taken to a hospital. The woman allegedly wounded by the suspect, identified as Mercedes Lopez, also was hospitalized and is expected to recover, police said.

Almanza faces attempted murder and other charges in Lopez’s shooting.

The judge set a preliminary hearing for Nov. 9.

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