Cop killer learns how long he will spend behind bars for death of Navajo police officer

new mexico
Source: Santa Fe County Detention Facility; U.S. Department of the Interior

Jul. 15 2021, Published 2:25 p.m. ET

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A tribal police officer was murdered four years ago, and his killer will spend the next few decades behinds bars.

A federal judge sentenced Kirby Cleveland, 37, to 30 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to the second-degree murder of Houston James Largo, a tribal police officer of the Navajo Nation in Prewitt, New Mexico.

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On March 11, 2017, Cleveland was drunk at his home and hostile to his common-law wife and children. Largo responded to a domestic violence call at the residence.

Upon the officer arrived, Cleveland shot Largo in the head with a .22-caliber rifle and fled from the scene. A woman in the community found the officer lying on the ground, face down and bleeding. She called for help using the radio in the patrol car.

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Immediately, a large manhunt for Cleveland by local, tribal and state authorities ensued. He was found the next day under a rock, over a mile away in the hills. Largo died at the hospital the next day.

According to court records, Cleveland admitted he was drunk on the day of the incident and claimed to fear for his life when the 27-year-old officer approached him. He further stated his actions were due to an attack he experienced at the hands of armed bandits with baseball bats a day earlier.

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In hopes of getting a reduced sentence, his lawyers filed for several delays from the court over the past year to find witnesses to testify to the mental state of Cleveland.

The coronavirus also caused additional delays.

“Kirby Cleveland’s murder of Officer Houston Largo was a cowardly, hateful act. 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,” said Fred J. Federici, Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of New Mexico.

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Prosecutors told the court Cleveland violated the terms of his supervised release from an earlier assault conviction, which had involved chasing a woman with a baseball bat. Also, he failed to address his issues with alcohol and complete a residential re-entry program.

When he is released from prison, Cleveland will have to serve four years of mandatory supervised release.

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