Suspect in murder of Florida officer is illegal immigrant from Guatemala

ICE confirmed on Tuesday that Aguilar-Mendez was in the United States illegally, and issued a detainer.

Jarryd Jaeger Vancouver, BC
It has been revealed that the suspect charged in connection with the death of a Florida police officer is an illegal immigrant from Guatemala. Sgt. Michael Kunovich of the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office died shortly after 18-year-old Vergilio Aguilar Mendez violently resisted arrest.

Aguilar-Mendez was subsequently charged with felony murder in addition to resisting with violence, and is being held at the St. Johns County Jail.

According to CBS47, Immigration and Customs Enforcement confirmed on Tuesday that Aguilar-Mendez was in the United States illegally, and issued a detainer, a request that law enforcement will notify ICE as soon as he is released from custody.

As the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office reports, Kunovich was patrolling the streets in St. Augustine on the evening of May 19 when he spotted Aguilar-Mendez "sitting in the dark outside a closed business." Kunovich approached Aguilar-Mendez and attempted to pat him down to see if he was carrying any weapons, at which point the suspect tried to flee.

A violent struggle ensued, and backup was called. Kunovich and Aguilar-Mendez fought on the ground for over six minutes, during which the suspect tried to grab the officer's taser. Aguilar-Mendez was eventually handcuffed, and a pocketknife was confiscated. 

While Aguilar-Mendez was being taken away, Kunovich collapsed and was rushed to hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Kunovich, a 25-year veteran of the force, received numerous awards for his work, and was remembered by his colleagues as someone who was "passionately dedicated to his career to keeping our community safe."

"While Sergeant Kunovich took on the important role of serving and protecting our community for 25 years," the office wrote in a statement, "his most important role was that of being a father to two amazing young men who were his whole world."

Kunovich and his family received an outpouring of support from the community, and a funeral service is planned for May 26, including a public procession.

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