PREWITT, N.M. (AP) — A tribal police officer shot dead over the weekend in a remote community on the nation's largest American Indian reservation died after he encountered two people in a vehicle along a county road while responding to a domestic violence report, authorities said Monday.
Preliminary reports indicate Navajo Nation Officer Houston James Largo, 27, was critically wounded when he came into contact with the two after being sent to a rural address north of the town of Prewitt, said McKinley County Sheriff's Deputy Roberta Jaramillo.
"A female saw that the officer was down and called dispatch over his radio," Jaramillo said.
Navajo police were already on the scene when sheriff's deputies and New Mexico state police officers arrived. Authorities quickly identified a suspect and the search intensified as daylight broke. Footprints helped officers to track the suspect, who was taken into custody early Sunday.
Authorities did not immediately release any information about the suspect, the circumstances of the arrest or what led to the shooting.
A decorated officer, Largo was flown to University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque and died hours later Sunday, his death spurring a flood on condolences on social media from other police agencies around the country and family members of other law enforcement officers.
Largo was the first officer killed this year in New Mexico and one of several shot in the U.S. while on duty. This follows a year in which the number of law enforcement officers shot and killed increased sharply, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
James Tierney, the acting U.S. attorney for New Mexico, said in a statement that Largo was dedicated to his job and had touched many through his work on the Navajo Nation and his commission as a special federal officer with the Bureau of Indian Affairs' Office of Justice Services.
"His loss is a tragic reminder that the work of our law enforcement officers is profoundly heroic and deserving of our most emphatic support," Tierney said.
Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye said tribal officers are well-trained but constantly face danger on the job.
"They are the ones who stand guard over our nation and protect us," Begaye said in a statement.
There are roughly 225 sworn officers in the Navajo Police Department, which covers more than 27,000 square miles in portions of New Mexico, Arizona and Utah.
With Largo's death, the tribe has lost 13 officers in the line of duty since 1975.