By Shelly Bradbury
The Denver Post
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ARVADA, Colo. — An Arvada police officer was killed early Sunday morning during an exchange of gunfire with a suspect as the officer tried to break up a family disturbance, Arvada police Chief Link Strate said Sunday.
The officer who died was Dillon Michael Vakoff, 27, Strate said during a morning news conference. Vakoff and another officer responded to a call for a “large family disturbance” in the 6700 block of W. 51st Avenue at 1:41 a.m., Strate said.
When the two officers arrived, they found a “chaotic scene,” with multiple people in the street, he said.
The officers were attempting to separate “belligerent and uncooperative” people in the street when the suspect began shooting. The suspect shot a woman, at which point the two officers returned fire. Vakoff was then shot by the suspect, Strate said.
He cautioned that the investigation is in the early stages and information is preliminary.
The second officer tried to help Vakoff, who was taken to a hospital where he died.
The suspect was also shot and hospitalized. Both the woman who was wounded and the suspect are expected to survive, Strate said. The suspect was still hospitalized and in police custody Sunday, he said. The suspect has not been publicly identified.
Strate said investigators are not sure how the woman was involved in the disturbance.
Vakoff joined the Arvada Police Department in 2019 and previously served six years in the U.S. Air Force, rising to the rank of staff sergeant, Strate said. He was in training to be a SWAT officer.
“Dillon is an example of everything that is good about a police officer,” Strate said.
Arlene Hackenberg, who was staying in a house nearby the fatal shooting, said she woke up to flashing police lights early Sunday morning, and that her friend heard three shots.
The neighborhood is made up of a few houses and apartments on a dead-end street tucked between I-76, vacant greenhouses and a business park. It can be rough, Hackenberg said, and there have been problems on the street before.
“It’s a shame, my heart goes out to the officer and his family,” she said.
Strate did not take questions during a Sunday morning news conference.
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