ARVADA — The Colorado Fallen Hero Foundation is a nonprofit organization designed to assist law enforcement agencies and families when an officer is killed in the line of duty. Right now, between 50 and 60 people from all over Colorado are working tirelessly to help the Arvada Police Department, along with the family and friends of fallen Officer Dillon Vakoff.
Arvada police officers were dispatched to a well-being call for two children early Sunday morning. Officers found what is described as a chaotic street filled with people in the 6700 block of West 51st Avenue. While trying to separate people in the street, the suspect fired a gun, hitting a woman who is expected to survive. An exchange of gunfire happened, and the suspect hit Vakoff, who was pronounced dead at the hospital.
The suspect in the case was identified as 31-year-old Sonny Almanza.
When those with the Colorado Fallen Hero Foundation heard what happened, they sprung into action.
“From the moment that call comes in, we are in work mode," said Stephen Redfearn, president of the Colorado Fallen Hero Foundation. “Our main goal is to make sure that the fallen officer gets the proper honors that they deserve.”
Redfearn said he expects anywhere from 3,000 to 5,000 people to attend Vakoff's memorial service. The team is still figuring out a date that works for the family, the department and a venue. He hopes it will happen within a week.
“All money that we take in in the next 30 days will be donated to this officer's family, and we are the official donation site," Redfearn said. "It is expensive to properly do a line of duty death memorial. And so, everything that we do comes from donations.”
The Colorado Fallen Hero Foundation accepts donations at any time to support future memorials.
Denver7 spoke with Julian Gluck, who served in the Air Force with Vakoff. Around six years ago, they were deployed in Qatar with the 96th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron. Gluck called it the most meaningful time in his life.
“During that time, we were all focused on a singular goal, which was helping rid the world of the devastation of ISIS, the Taliban in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. When everyone comes together, when you're away from your families, your squadron becomes your family," Gluck explained.
Gluck said he and Vakoff would discuss their dreams and what they wanted to do when they finished their service in the Air Force. He said Vakoff brought a positive energy to everything and was always smiling. Above all else, Gluck called Officer Vakoff selfless.
“He's just one of those guys that sticks out in your mind from the thousands that we serve alongside. He just had something special about him, where you knew this guy really wanted to take care of others," Gluck remembered. “If there's anything that we can learn from Dillon's sacrifice, and from the incredible positive interactions he's had with all of us, is the importance of helping those who need it most.”