Family and friends of an Arvada police officer killed in the line of duty gathered to fundraise and celebrate his life Wednesday night at a spot he loved to visit.
Officer Dillon Vakoff was shot to death while responding to a domestic disturbance. The Arvada resident was 27 and served in the military before joining the police force.
The man accused of killing him, 31-year-old Sonny Almanza, is.
Two-and-a-half weeks after the fatal shooting, loved ones and colleagues of Vakoff gathered in his honor at the Grizzly Rose in Denver, a place he loved to go to listen to music and spend time with friends.
"He loved to dance and to sit here and mingle with everyone," said childhood friend Sawyer Rone.
Over the years, Rone joined his friend at the Rose countless times, but on this night, the reason for gathering was different. Beside the dance floor, loved ones and bargoers found a silent auction to support the fallen officer's family.
"The last couple weeks have been so rough with everything going on, so friends, coworkers are all here tonight ... in support," Rone said.
While the community's support has been overwhelming since Vakoff's death, Rone's girlfriend Brooke Vanhavermaat wanted to do more. She first contacted the Grizzly Rose, which agreed to host the fundraiser free of cost, and then worked with people in the community to get items donated for the fundraiser.
"I just contacted a bunch of family, friends, and businesses, and pulled together about 25 silent auction items and did it in about a week and a half," Vanhavermaat said.
Now, every dollar from each item or donation will go to Vakoff's family through the Colorado Fallen Hero Foundation.
"We just really wanted to keep his spirit alive and really remember him," she said. "He loved this place, and (we wanted to) support his memory and support the family and just give back one more time."
For Rone and other loved ones, the event was as much about sharing memories as fundraising. The longtime friend described it as a way to honor and celebrate the man so many admired.
"He was a good friend and a good family member and a good cop. Everything about him was good," Rone said. "Instead of grieving, let's put his name in honor, and let's just smile, because that's all that Dillon did."
Rone and Vanhavermaat said they hope to plan more events in the future to honor Vakoff. You can still donate to his family through the Colorado Fallen Hero Foundation's website.