Man charged with murder in connection to death of St. Johns County deputy

Various law enforcement agencies send outpouring of support

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – The St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office has arrested a man on a felony murder charge after an altercation led to the death of Sgt. Michael Kunovich.

Virjilio Aguilar-Mendez, 18, is charged with resisting with violence and felony murder. He is currently being held without bond.

Aguilar-Mendez’s immigration status is also in question. The Sheriff’s Office is working with Homeland Security to verify his identity and immigration status.

According to the Sheriff’s Office, Kunovich spotted Aguilar-Mendez sitting outside of a closed business on State Road 16 in St. Augustine around 9 p.m. Friday.

Kunovich made contact with Aguilar-Mendez and tried to complete a pat down for weapons, but according to investigators, Aguilar-Mendez then pulled away from Kunovich and attempted to run away.

Sgt. Michael Kunovich (WJXT)

Additional deputies arrived on the scene and Aguilar-Mendez continued to violently resist for more than six minutes, the Sheriff’s Office said. He also attempted to grab Kunovich’s taser while fighting on the ground, according to deputies.

Deputies were eventually able to handcuff Aguilar-Mendez, and he ended up pulling out a pocketknife, which had to be forcefully removed by deputies, the Sheriff’s Office said.

Kunovich, a 25-year veteran of the department, collapsed moments after Aguilar-Mendez was disarmed and was transported to Flagler Hospital, where he died a short time later.

Officers gathered for a prayer and lined the street to pay their respects when Kunovich’s body later left the hospital.

“This has been a difficult time for our agency with the loss of one of our own. I want to thank St. Johns Fire Rescue, Flagler Health+, and our agency personnel for their lifesaving efforts on Sergeant Kunovich. I ask that you please respect the family and members of the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office as we mourn the loss of Sergeant Kunovich,” said Sheriff Robert Hardwick.


Other local law enforcement agencies have also sent their condolences.

Sheriff T.K Waters of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office said, “It’s a very very sad day.” He also offered all the resources JSO has available and whatever the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office might need to help support Kunovich’s family.

“A loss like that is unexpected. It’s tragic and really brings it home quite a bit. We’re here as brothers, whether it be brothers and sisters in blue, brothers and sisters in green, whether it’s troopers, we’re here for one another and we’re going to offer our support and make sure we prop them up and hold them up,” Waters said.

News4JAX also reached out to our Crime and Safety Analyst Lakesha Burton, who talked about how important it is to get support from other law enforcement agencies during a tragedy such as this.

“It is everything. Again, this police officer signed up to serve and protect. I think that is the common thread among all police officers. They have this calling to serve and protect, and you always go through your career not wanting to be that person who died in the line of duty. I think it speaks to how honorable this profession is. This sergeant is a hero,” Burton said.

Burton also talked about what the next steps are for the Sheriff’s Office.

“This will be handled like any other officer-involved death. It is very complex, very detail-oriented, so what the investigators want to do is process the scene, collect as much evidence as possible and witnesses because what they want to do is put together this incident and see what actually happened so they can determine what the outcome is going to be as a relates to the individual, the suspect, that was engaged in this incident,” Burton added.

Burton asked the community to be patient as the Sheriff’s Office continues its investigation.

“Every day that a police officer puts on that uniform and goes to work, they are at risk. But in this situation it’s very heartbreaking because this sergeant has dedicated and risked his life for over 25 years, not even having an opportunity to retire,” Burton said. “So it’s very heartbreaking and again we should be mourning the death of this hero and really putting things in perspective. You know how dangerous this job is and the dangers that law enforcement officers face every day.”

Funeral arrangements will be announced soon.

The Sheriff’s Office also placed two flower sprays in the shape of badges at its front entrance and lowered the American flag to half-staff for the fallen officer.

Memorial for fallen officer (WJXT)

About the Authors:

Khalil Maycock joined the News4JAX team in November 2022 after reporting in Des Moines, IA.