Fallen Navajo officer called fearless at service
Since he was a young boy, Houston James Largo had dreams of one day wearing a uniform and a badge and helping communities on the nation’s largest American Indian reservation, where he grew up.
There were tears, laughter and ovations as speakers shared stories Thursday at an emotional funeral service for the decorated 27-year-old officer, touching on those early dreams, Largo’s incredible sense of humor and the many times he went above the call of duty during his law enforcement career.
Family, friends, community members and officers from across the region packed a school gymnasium in the community of Rehoboth to honor Largo, a nearly five-year veteran of the Navajo Nation police force who was gunned down Sunday while responding to a domestic violence call in remote western New Mexico.
His flag-draped casket was flanked by photographs and flowers as his family sat nearby.
New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez consoled Largo’s mother during the service as Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye thanked the family for allowing Largo to serve as a member of the police force.
Begaye then asked the community to take the time to thank officers and for parents and grandparents to teach their children to respect law enforcement. He said it’s devastating for the tribe, which spans parts of New Mexico, Arizona and Utah, to lose an officer.
“Every officer is precious to us,” Begaye said, at times repeating himself in Navajo. “And let me tell you … beyond that uniform, beyond that badge, there’s an individual that is loved by somebody. There is a real person with a big heart wanting to protect the public, wanting to protect you, wanting to protect our nation.”
At the ceremony, Largo was called a hero and a Navajo warrior who had built “an amazing legacy” in such a short time. He also was recognized for his fearlessness and integrity.
Largo started his career with the Gallup Police Department in 2010, then joined the McKinley County Sheriff’s Office before going to work for the tribal police force.
Authorities have yet to say what led to Largo’s shooting. A suspect is in custody, but no charges have been filed.
Largo had stopped a vehicle on a dark county road north of the community of Prewitt. He was found lying about 50 yards from the vehicle with his duty pistol by his feet, sheriff’s deputies said. He had been shot twice. His bulletproof vest stopped one shot to his abdomen, but he suffered a gunshot wound to the forehead.
A woman who came upon the scene used Largo’s radio to call for help, deputies say. Largo was flown to an Albuquerque hospital, where he later died.
The shooting has renewed focus on the challenges officers on the Navajo Nation and other American Indian reservations face. They often have to patrol vast jurisdictions alone.
Tribal officials and the governors of New Mexico and Arizona called for flags to be lowered in honor of Largo.
When Edmund Yazzie, chairman of tribal council’s law and order committee, spoke at the funeral, he asked the crowd to stand up and let Largo hear them, spurring a long and loud round of cheers, hoots and whistles.