Officer Dillon Vakoff was fatally shot in the parking lot of an Arvada apartment complex in September of last year during a confrontation, according to the prosecution. On Tuesday, the alleged defendant entered a not guilty plea to a number of charges, including first-degree murder of a peace officer with extreme indifference.
According to court records, Sonny Thomas Almanza III entered a not guilty plea to charges including first-degree murder with extreme indifference, first-degree murder after deliberate, first-degree murder with extreme indifference, attempted first-degree murder after deliberation, and attempted first-degree murder with extreme indifference, among others, for the murder of Officer Vakoff on September 11.
Officers from the Arvada Police Department arrived to an apartment at 6753 West 51st Avenue at about 1:45 a.m. that day after learning of a custody dispute involving two kids.
Almanza III pulled into the parking lot of the apartment complex as Vakoff approached the scene to speak with the mother of the children, and a brawl broke out. Almanza fired shots from his weapon into the parking lot during the altercation, hitting Vakoff and a lady.
Vakoff succumbed to his injuries.
According to the arrest affidavit in the case, Almanza admitted to police that he had just split up with the mother of the children, did not have a court-issued child custody order, and instead relied on a reciprocal exchange of the children to see them. He told the detectives that she had the kids on the evening of September 10.
He was in downtown Denver in the early morning hours of September 11 with a woman known only as “RP” and her husband when, after downing two drinks, he discovered the children’s mother had left them with another relative. The document states that Almanza, RP, and RP’s husband then traveled by car to the residence of the children’s mother.