Closing arguments wrapped up on Wednesday evening in the case of a man accused of killing an Arvada police officer.
Officer Dillon Vakoff was shot and killed in September 2022, while responding to a domestic situation at a home near 51st and Marshall. The situation escalated and was then taken outside.
Sonny Almanza, 32 years old, was charged with first-degree murder in Vakoff's death. On Wednesday morning, Almanza took the stand before closing arguments began.
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.
The shooting unfolded during a domestic situation involving custody issues over Almanza's two children.
Almanza said when he arrived at the home, it was "chaotic," and people were yelling and screaming.
"I was just scared, scared for myself, scared for the people I was with," said Almanza. "I just wanted to keep myself and my family protected."
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.
"You made seven independent decisions to pull the trigger seven more times," prosecutors said, to which Almanza responded, "I don't remember it."
Almanza added, "I remember pulling it (the trigger) once, intentionally, because I was fired upon." Prosecutors then asked, "so you were trying to hit the person on the other end of the rifle?"
"Yes, the person that I believe was attacking me, yes," Almanza responded.
Evidence showed that seven more shots were fired after the initial shot toward Vakoff.
During closing arguments, prosecutors argued that Almanza was the aggressor in the incident, and he brought an AR-15 to a fist fight. Defense lawyers argued, what happened, was all in self-defense.
Jury deliberations will begin Thursday morning.
Vakoff died at a hospital after the overnight shooting, after efforts by another officer, EMTs and medical staff to save him. He joined the Arvada Police Department in 2019.
for more features.