Guatemalan illegal immigrant accused of police sergeant’s death is released from ICE custody

An illegal immigrant from Guatemala accused of being involved with the death of a Florida police sergeant has been released from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody.

Virgilio Aguilar Mendez, 19, was accused of being involved with the death of St. Johns County Sgt. Michael Kunovich.

The incident happened around 9 p.m. on May 19, when Kunovich approached Mendez for “suspicious behavior” outside a closed restaurant in St. Augustine, according to the arrest report.

“Aguilar Mendez was walking on a public sidewalk and speaking with his mother, which is not a crime,” a lawsuit read. “When Sgt. Kunovich seized Aguilar Mendez, he stopped and did not try to flee.”

Police bodycam footage shows Kunovich asking the teen for identification, but Mendez does not speak English.

Bodycam video shows Mendez resisting as Kunovich attempts to pat him down. Police said the teen did have a small pocket knife in his possession at the time of the confrontation.

A struggle ensued and a deputy tased Mendez, and the teen was thrown on the grass.

The police restrained Mendez.

However, Kunovich suffered a medical emergency during the encounter and collapsed to the ground. The Florida police sergeant was rushed to the hospital, but he was later pronounced dead.

Mendez was charged with aggravated manslaughter of an officer for the sudden death of Kunovich.

However, prosecutors dropped the criminal charges against the illegal alien following the results of Kunovich’s autopsy that said the 52-year-old police officer died suddenly of natural causes after suffering cardiac dysrhythmia. The medical examiner said the death may have been a result of the severe heart disease he was alleged to have, a prior heart attack, or heart and lung deterioration due to smoking.

There were also arguments by the defense that Mendez was incompetent to stand trial.

The 7th District State Attorney’s Office said in a statement, “Recent expert testimony regarding the defendant’s inability to comprehend the English language, his cultural background, and concerns about his intellectual capacity have raised significant issues to consider in the case.”

Mendez’s criminal defense attorney, Jose Baez, accused the police officers of racial profiling and conducting an “unlawful arrest.”

St. Johns County Sheriff Rob Hardwick said in a statement earlier this month, “There have been attempts by some to portray Aguilar Mendez as a victim and vilify Sergeant Kunovich. I continue to stand behind Sergeant Kunovich’s actions on the night of May 19, 2023. The danger associated with law enforcement is a risk we assume when we enter this profession. Sergeant Kunovich died a hero protecting the citizens of St. Johns County and there is nothing more noble than that. Please continue to hold our agency and Sergeant Kunovich’s family in your thoughts and prayers.”

First Coast News reported, “According to the incident report, Mendez is a migrant worker from Guatemala and told police he was previously in immigration custody for six months.”

Kunovich was a 25-year veteran of the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office.

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