Navajo man sentenced to 30 years in prison for 2017 murder of tribal police officer
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Mexico
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Kirby Cleveland, 37, of Prewitt New Mexico, and an enrolled member of Navajo Nation, was sentenced on June 28 in federal court to 30 years in prison for second-degree murder for killing Houston James Largo, a tribal police officer for the Navajo Nation. Cleveland pleaded guilty on Dec. 12, 2019.
In his plea, Cleveland admitted to killing Largo with callous and wanton disregard for human life on March 11, 2017, in McKinley County, New Mexico, on the Navajo Nation. According to court records, Cleveland became drunk and angry while at home with his children and his common law wife, who called the police. When Officer Largo responded to the home, Cleveland shot Officer Largo in the head, killing him. Cleveland then fled the scene. State, local, and tribal law enforcement conducted a large-scale search for Cleveland and located him the next morning hiding under a rock about a mile and a half away.
“Kirby Cleveland’s murder of Officer Houston Largo was a cowardly, hateful act,” said Fred J. Federici, Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of New Mexico. “But the response of law enforcement upon learning that Officer Largo had been senselessly killed while he was bravely serving the people of the Navajo Nation and New Mexico, exemplifies the concern that all law enforcement officers in our state have for those who risk their lives while protecting the public. Within minutes of learning of the shooting, dozens of officers from different departments converged on the tragic scene to look for the killer. Officer Largo’s service and sacrifice in the line of duty were exemplary, and the public should know that law enforcement and the U.S. Attorney’s Office will spare no resource in the investigation and prosecution of anyone who takes the life of an officer in New Mexico.”
“All too often, law enforcement officers are called upon to sacrifice their lives to protect their communities,” said Raul Bujanda, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Albuquerque Field Office. “While the loss of Houston James Largo is a tragedy that affects us all, his courage and devotion to duty should be an inspiration to everyone who wears the badge. The FBI hopes this lengthy prison sentence will provide some measure of justice and peace for Officer Largo's family and co-workers.”
“Officer Largo will always be remembered as a frontline warrior who devoted his life to serving and protecting our Navajo people,” said Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez. “Our prayers are with his family, his fellow officers and his community as they continue on the path of healing. I appreciate the support and commitment of Police Chief Francisco, Mr. Delmar and Council Delegate Edmund Yazzie for Officer Largo’s family and all of our Navajo Police Officers. We will continue to pray for strength, comfort and healing for the Largo family.”
“Officer Houston James Largo was an outstanding officer who went above and beyond his duty to help our community and the people we serve, said Navajo Chief of Police Philip Francisco. “Houston was young and ambitious and I have no doubt he would have become a great leader within our department. It is heartbreaking to think of how young he was and all that he could have done but we will keep his memory alive and remember his courage, his character, and the light he brought to the Navajo Police Department.”
“Justice was administered to its extent according to the guidelines provided to the court,” said Jesse Delmar, Director of the Navajo Division of Public Safety. “We appreciate all those who were instrumental in bringing justice for Houston and his family. Officer Largo was a young man who had the potential to become one of the best for this department and the Navajo Nation, and it is painful to know he was taken at such a young age. He had so much to offer as an officer, and it is just unfortunate this happened to our people. We will continue to stand with Houston's family in prayers and comfort.”
Cleveland also pleaded guilty to violating the terms of his supervised release from a previous assault conviction involving an attack on a woman with a baseball bat. Cleveland failed to abstain from alcohol and complete a residential reentry program as ordered by the court.
Upon his release from prison, Cleveland will be subject to four years of supervised release.
The FBI and the Crownpoint, Shiprock and Chinle offices of the Navajo Nation Department of Public Safety investigated this case with assistance from the New Mexico State Police, McKinley County Sheriff’s Office, the Albuquerque Police Department and Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joseph M. Spindle and Jeremy Peña prosecuted the case.
Updated June 30, 2021
Press Release Number: 21-128
Indian Country Law and Justice