Arvada Police officer Dylan Vakoff was shot in the head and leg from just a car length away the night he was killed, according to an arrest affidavit released Monday. 

The affidavit said that Vakoff and another officer were responding to a dispute over the custody of two children when they pulled up to 6753 West 51st in Arvada at 1:45 am on Sept. 11. 

The suspect, Sonny Almanza, told police that he was walking toward the commotion with his weapon when he heard a gunshot and realized he had been shot "on the outside of his right hip." He told police he fired one shot at a person he saw standing between two vehicles in a parking lot outside of his home. 

That person was Vakoff, 27, who was in process of breaking up a family feud that was getting out of control, the affidavit said.  

Contrary to Almanza's account that he only fired one time, police found 8 rounds in the brick wall behind Vakoff and more in the vehicles that were parked on either side of where he fell. Neighbors said that they saw another officer pumping his chest, but that Vakoff was not moving.

Almanza also told police that he didn't realize he shot a police officer until after he fired. Almanza was actually in the car where the original call to report the disturbance was made. When Almanza's car arrived, officers were already there, the affidavit said.  

According to the arrest warrant, the suspect, Almanza, 31, and his wife, Lexis Lopez, had been fighting over their kids since the couple had separated two weeks before. That night, the warrant said, there was a vicious family fight in the street and Almanza was angry that Lopez had left the children with juveniles and retrieved them. 

Almanza also allegedly shot Lopez' sister, Mercedes. Doctors said Lopez's injury was not serious. 

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Neighbors said they they were awakened by the shots and someone yelling ,"No!" 

"I'll never forget the sound of that scream," one resident, who would only identify himself as Brian, said.

Another neighbor, Joe Majestic, said he saw a police officer grab a baby by the diaper and put the child in a patrol car. 

Once Almanza was in custody, police found a handgun, two rifles and two high-capacity magazines in and around his residence that night, according to the affidavit.  

Last week, First Judicial District Attorney Alexis King formally charged Almanza with 11 counts in connection with Vakoff's death and in the shooting of Mercedes Lopez. 

Among the charges formally filed against Almanza were first-degree murder of a peace officer and first-degree murder with extreme indifference in the death of Vakoff; attempted murder with extreme indifference and second-degree assault against Lopez; and, possession of a weapon by a previous offender. 

Almanza's attorney, Jim O'Conner, asked the judge to lift a protection order for the defendant's children but the judge has not ruled on that request.

Thousands of law enforcement officers from around state turned out for Vakoff's funeral on Sept. 16. The Air Force veteran had been with Arvada police for three years. Friends and family said he had dreams of becoming a SWAT officer and was in love with a woman who was also an Arvada cop.

Almanza is scheduled for a motions hearing on Oct. 7 and a preliminary hearing Nov. 9. 

Denver Enterprise Reporter

A 40-year Colorado news veteran, Carol McKinley started in radio, and traveled the world as a network TV correspondent/producer. In 2021, she decided to return to local news. A Baghdad alum, she has 4 grown children and lives with her husband and her mom.