B-52 Flyover Honors Beloved Veteran, Slain Colorado Cop

Colorado Cop

Shot to death moments after arriving at a domestic disturbance near Denver, Colorado, Arvada Police Officer Dillon Micheal Vakoff, a US Air Force veteran, was honored during his Friday, Sept. 16, 2022, funeral with a flyover from a Boeing B-52 Stratofortress. He was 27. Composite by Coffee or Die Magazine.

Slain Colorado cop Dillon Micheal Vakoff was so beloved by his old US Air Force squadron, they did a B-52 flyover at his funeral.

Arvada Police Officer Vakoff died in a shootout Sept. 11, moments after responding to a domestic disturbance in the Denver suburb. Authorities have charged career criminal Sonny Thomas Almanza, 31, with murdering him.

Vakoff was laid to rest Friday, Sept. 16, following the flyover and funeral at Flatirons Community Church in Lafayette. He was 27.

“You want to talk about somebody who will go out there every night and get after it, and wants to come to work, wants to go out there and help his community and just be out in the community? That’s Dillon,” Arvada Police Officer Donato Santos told Coffee or Die Magazine.

Colorado cop

Dillon Vakoff was shot to death on Sept. 11, 2022. Before his funeral five days later, Vakoff’s squad car was decorated with flowers and mementos to honor his service to the Arvada Police Department. Photo courtesy of Don Rohacek.

A Ralston Valley High School graduate, Vakoff enlisted in the Air Force on Oct. 29, 2013, to become an elite pararescueman. But an injury during training steered him into aviation resource management.

His last active-duty tour was at Louisiana’s Barksdale Air Force Base, where he served in the 96th Bomb Squadron, the Red Devils.

Honorably discharged as a staff sergeant on Oct. 29, 2019, his decorations included an Air Force Commendation Medal, multiple Army and Air Force Achievement Medals, and a Humanitarian Service Medal for saving the lives of five people on Saipan in 2018 following the devastating super Typhoon Yutu.

He returned to Colorado and joined the police force in his hometown of Arvada. Santos told Coffee or Die that Vakoff’s humility was matched only by his dedication to “being there for other people, not just the citizens, but being there for his co-workers, as he was more than willing to help out anybody at our agency if somebody needed help.”

Colorado cop

Gunned down on Sept. 11, 2022, Officer Dillon Vakoff was posthumously awarded the Arvada Police Department’s highest award for courage, the Medal of Valor. Officers also draped his police station locker with an American flag. Arvada Police Department photo.

Vakoff was also an avid weightlifter. His girlfriend — fellow Arvada Police Officer Megan Esslinger — told mourners Friday that he never skipped workouts, even for her.

Santos said Vakoff had been training hard to make the department’s Special Weapons and Tactics team. He told Coffee or Die the young officer was known for responding to a call only moments before his shift was supposed to end, and rushing to aid firefighters at a blaze.

Vakoff was the kind of cop who toiled every day to become a better officer, Santos added.

“I’ll critique him more than anybody else about anything that we do because I care about him that much,” Santos said.

Colorado cop

A beloved Colorado cop, Arvada Police Officer Dillon Vakoff had adopted Nemesis, a K9 working dog who flunked out of training. Photo courtesy of Ron Rohacek.

Vakoff was born on Dec. 28, 1994, to Dan Lammers and Lisa Vakoff.

He was preceded in death by his brother, Cody Vakoff; his grandfather, Bill Vakoff; and his uncles, Mike and Steve Vakoff.

He’s survived by his parents, his girlfriend, and his grandmother, Linda Vakoff.

Santos told Coffee or Die he’d always remember Vakoff for being a cop’s cop — with a high-pitched laugh that somehow bellowed out of the officer’s very muscular body.

“I will miss so much being able to sit car to car and just hear this dude’s laugh,” Santos said. “His laugh is unique to anybody else’s. And we gave him crap about his laugh, too.”

Read Next: Paratrooper Shot Outside His Apartment Just Off Fort Bragg

Joshua is a staff writer for Coffee or Die Magazine. He has covered the 75th anniversary of D-Day in France, multinational military exercises in Germany, and civil unrest during the 2020 riots in Minneapolis that followed the death of George Floyd. Born and raised in small-town South Dakota, Joshua grew up playing football and soccer before serving as a forward observer in the US Army. After leaving the service, he earned his CrossFit Level 1 certificate and worked as a personal trainer while earning his paramedic license. Joshua went on to work in paramedicine for more than five years, much of that time in the North Minneapolis area, before transitioning to a career in multimedia journalism. Joshua is married, has two children, and is currently pursuing his bachelor’s degree in multimedia journalism. His creative outlets include Skovlund Photography and Concentrated Emotion, which is where he publishes poetry focused on his life experiences.
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