In May 2023, Virgilio Aguilar-Mendez, a 19-year-old illegal alien from Guatemala, was arrested and charged with resisting an officer with violence and manslaughter in relation to the death of Sheriff’s Office Sgt.
Michael Kunovich in St. Johns County, Florida. Aguilar-Mendez’s defense attorney, Phillip Arroyo, has stated that his client’s “constitutional rights” have been violated and that he is a victim of both police brutality and racial profiling. Arroyo has further warned that he will pursue a federal lawsuit if the charges against Aguilar-Mendez are not dropped by the St. Johns County prosecutors.
“Mr. Virgilio was a victim of police brutality. He was a victim of racial profiling,” Arroyo said. “He was a victim of violation of his fourth, fifth, and sixth amendment constitutional rights. Those who are responsible for this abuse will be held accountable.”
Arroyo also expressed his strong disapproval of the charges against Aguilar-Mendez, stating that they are some of the most unjust acts he has witnessed within the court system. He described them as a serious injustice and deeply disheartening.
The possibility of a federal lawsuit arises following a recent ruling by a local judge, who deemed Aguilar-Mendez unfit to stand trial and ordered him to undergo competency treatment while remaining in the custody of St. Johns County.
According to the police, on May 19, Kunovich lawfully attempted to conduct a pat-down search on Aguilar-Mendez while he was seated outside a closed business. Instead of cooperating, Aguilar-Mendez attempted to flee from Kunovich. When other officers intervened, Aguilar-Mendez continued to resist.
The struggle between Kunovich and Aguilar-Mendez lasted for over six minutes, during which Aguilar-Mendez tried to seize the officer’s taser. Eventually, Kunovich managed to handcuff Aguilar-Mendez, but the latter pulled out a pocketknife, which was promptly taken away from him.
Following the altercation with Aguilar-Mendez, Kunovich collapsed on the ground. First responders administered life-saving measures, but he was pronounced dead after being swiftly transported to a nearby hospital.
Aguilar-Mendez is an undocumented immigrant from Guatemala. He arrived at the United States-Mexico border last year and was subsequently released into the United States. According to his attorney, Aguilar-Mendez had been employed on a farm and sending money back to Guatemala.