Home » Guatemalan illegal migrant accused in police sergeant’s death is released

Guatemalan illegal migrant accused in police sergeant’s death is released

by John Jefferson
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A Guatemalan illegal immigrant accused of killing a police officer last year has been released from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody.

Virgilio Aguilar Mendez, 19, was charged with aggravated manslaughter of an officer after a scuffle involving several law enforcement officers in May 2023.

St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Michael Kunovich died as a result of the incident, but charges against Mendez were dropped last month.

On Friday, Aguilar Mendez’s lawyer, Phillip Arroyo, shared a TikTok video showing the moment Mendez was released for the first time since May 2023. The video shows the teen smiling and nodding while speaking with Arroyo as they walk toward a camera. 

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“Virgilio Aguilar finally FREE! God is great,” Arroyo wrote in a caption in Spanish.

The release comes 10 months after Kunovich, 52, collapsed from “medical distress” during the encounter with Aguilar Mendez, who was 18 at the time. The officer later died.

According to the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office, Kunovich initially approached Aguilar Mendez about 9 p.m. on May 19, suspecting him of a crime. Aguilar Mendez then continued walking away from the deputy.

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

The officer pursued Aguilar Mendez, who apologized in English, before continuing to resist the arrest.

The migrant was allegedly confused and told the deputy, “I’m sorry, no speak, no speak English.”

Other deputies, including those who spoke Spanish, responded, and officers tased the migrant and tackled him to the ground, Sheriff Robert Hardwick said at the time.

Jose Baez

The sheriff’s office said the deputies attempted to restrain Aguilar Mendez, who they claim was resisting arrest.

The deputies then handcuffed the migrant, but he managed to acquire a small pocketknife. The office did not say if the migrant attempted to use the weapon.

The scuffle was recorded by the officers’ bodycams, and the lawyers point to the video as evidence of the migrant’s inability to understand or speak English.

Aguilar Mendez’s attorney, Jose Baez, argued his client was confused and did not understand the purpose or reason for the officers to pile on him, to physically strike him multiple times and the repeated use of a Taser by Sgt. Kunovich.

A lawsuit filed by Baez claimed Lt. Jose Jimenez, another responding deputy, did not make Aguilar Mendez aware of his Miranda rights or attempt to obtain an interpreter for him.

The 7th District State Attorney’s Office agreed and issued 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,” the state attorney’s office said. 

St. Johns County Sheriff's Office vehicle

“Furthermore, based on the court’s recent ruling that the defendant is incompetent to proceed based on that expert testimony, dismissal of the charges is appropriate. Arrest and time served is sufficient.” 

Kunovich was a 25-year veteran of the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office, and Sheriff Hardwick described him as a “valued member of the St. Johns County Office who passionately dedicated his career to keeping our community safe.”

Fox News’ Lawrence Richard contributed to this report.

Read the full article here

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