(January 28, 2024) St. Augustine, Florida – Teen Charged With Murder After Officer Had Heart Attack While Assaulting Him
On May 19, 2023, Virgilio Aguilar Méndez, an 18-year-old Indigenous-Maya farmworker, was eating and talking to his mother on the phone outside of his Super 8 motel room in St. Augustine, Florida, where he was staying with three other farmworkers. He was working to send money to his family in Guatemala. St. Johns County police Sergeant Michael Kunovich approached Aguilar Méndez and described him to the dispatcher as a “suspicious Hispanic male” according to an ABC News reporter who reviewed the body camera and audio of the incident.
As Kunovich began to question Aguilar Méndez, who speaks the Mayan language Mam, the young man couldn’t understand the questions and started apologizing. He expressed multiple times that he did not speak English and that he was residing in the motel.
Kunovich started searching the teenager for weapons, according to the Florida Times-Union. Startled, the confused 5-foot-4, 115-pound teen resisted. During the eight minute struggle, Kunovich called two other deputies to assist him. They pushed and pinned Aguilar Méndez to the ground, held him in a chokehold, and stunned him with his taser six times in two minutes.
Five minutes after they handcuffed the teenager and put him in a patrol car, Kunovich collapsed and was transported to a hospital where he died. Medical examiners found this to be cardiac arrest and ruled Kunovich’s death to be by natural causes. The ABC reporter, who obtained a copy of Kunovich’s autopsy report, wrote that it said, “These cardiac changes, while recent, predate the struggle with the subject. The circumstances do not fully meet the criteria for a homicide manner of death.” Posted By Ghost