ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – An honor guard escorted a St. Johns County sergeant who died in the line of duty over the weekend as his body was moved Monday from the medical examiner’s office to be prepared for his funeral.
Sgt. Michael Kunovich collapsed after helping detain a man who deputies say violently resisted being arrested. Kunovich died at the hospital.
Officers gathered for a prayer and lined the street to pay their respects when Kunovich’s body left the hospital for the medical examiner’s office.
“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.
They again lined the street and saluted Monday as Kunovich left the medical examiner’s office with a motorcade and full honor guard escort.
Virjilio Aguilar-Mendez, 18, has been charged with resisting with violence and felony murder and is currently being held in St. Johns County without bond.
Local agencies shared an outpouring of support for the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office after news of Kunovich’s passing.
Those agencies are expected to show up in force for the deputy’s family when he is laid to rest later this week.
The Sheriff’s Office is expected to announce memorial plans soon.
The Sheriff’s Office has 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.
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.
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.
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 later died at Flagler Hospital.
Aguilar-Mendez’s immigration status is in question. The Sheriff’s Office is working with Homeland Security to verify his identity and immigration status.
Funeral arrangements were announced Monday.
Kunovich will be laid to rest on Friday, May 26 at St. Joseph Catholic Church at 1757 Old St. Augustine Road.
A viewing will be held on Thursday, May 25 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Hardage Giddens on 1285 S.t Johns Parkway.