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Jurors find Sonny Almanza guilty in deadly shooting of Arvada Police Officer Dillon Vakoff

Jurors find Sonny Almanza guilty in deadly shooting of Arvada Police Officer Dillon Vakoff
Jurors find Sonny Almanza guilty in deadly shooting of Arvada Police Officer Dillon Vakoff 00:29

After one day of deliberations, jurors found Sonny Almanza, 32, guilty of first-degree murder in the deadly shooting of an Arvada police officer last year. Arvada Police Officer Dillon Vakoff was shot and killed in September 2022, while responding to a domestic situation at a home near 51st and Marshall. 

Almanza was found guilty on all counts, including first-degree murder, criminal attempted murder in the second-degree, second-degree assault, large-capacity magazine prohibited and first-degree criminal trespass. 

According to prosecutors, the situation at the residence escalated, and was then taken outside. 


During his testimony, Almanza said he did not know police officers were on the scene when the shooting happened. He said he shot in self-defense after he was shot and injured. He believed it was another person, and not an officer, who shot at him. 

"I didn't know it was a police officer, and I thought I was being attacked. I thought the people that I was with were being attacked," said Almanza on the stand Wednesday. 

The shooting unfolded during a domestic situation involving custody issues over Almanza's two children. During his testimony, Almanza said he grabbed a gun from inside and fired one shot into the air to de-escalate the situation and frighten the people who were there. 

He also said he fired one shot toward the ground in the direction of a woman who was going after him. That person was shot in the leg.  

He testified saying he then walked outside, heard a gunshot, and saw that he was injured. He said he acted in self-defense and shot toward the person who shot him. 

"I just turned and shot, and at the same time, I'd visually seen who it was," said Almanza, who then realized it was a police officer. 


During cross-examination, prosecutors questioned Almanza for pulling the trigger several more times, after shooting Vakoff the first time.

During closing arguments, prosecutors argued that Almanza was the aggressor in the incident, and he brought an AR-15 to a fistfight. Defense lawyers argued that what happened was all in self-defense.

Vakoff died at the hospital after efforts by another officer, EMTs and medical staff to save him. He had joined the Arvada Police Department in 2019. 

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