ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. — The man charged with murder in the line of duty death of a St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office sergeant is in the United States illegally, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Virjilio Aguilar-Mendez, 18, is a citizen of Guatemala, ICE said.
On Friday night, St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Michael Kunovich made contact with a man later identified as Aguilar-Mendez, who Kunovich saw sitting in the dark outside of a closed business near the 2500 block of State Road 16.
Kunovich attempted a pat down on Aguilar-Mendez to check for weapons, and Aguilar-Mendez pulled away and attempted to flee. Additional deputies arrived and Aguilar-Mendez continued to resist.
While fighting on the ground, the subject attempted to grab Kunovich’s Taser and continued to violently resist for approximately 6 minutes and 19 seconds, SJSO said.
After Aguilar-Mendez was handcuffed, he armed himself with a pocket knife, which was forcefully removed by deputies.
Kunovich collapsed moments after the subject was disarmed and “relentless lifesaving measures” were initiated by St. Johns County Fire Rescue and Flagler Health+ personnel, SJSO said. He was ultimately pronounced dead shortly after being taken to Flagler Hospital.
Mendez has been charged with resisting with violence in addition to felony murder. ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations lodged a detainer against Aguilar-Mendez.
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An immigration detainer is a request from ICE to state or local law enforcement agencies to notify ICE as early as possible before a removable noncitizen is released from their custody.
An ICE spokesperson released the following statement:
“Regardless of nationality, ICE makes custody determinations on a case-by-case basis, in accordance with U.S. law and U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) policy, considering the individual merits and factors of each case. ICE officers make associated decisions and apply prosecutorial discretion in a responsible manner, informed by their experience as law enforcement professionals and in a way that best protects against the greatest threats to the homeland. Homeland Security Investigations has been working with the St. John’s County Sheriff’s Office since the beginning to help identify the suspect involved. ICE then lodged the detainer.”
Funeral arrangements have been set for Kunovich. Click here to learn more.