Civil attorney for 18-year-old migrant accused in St. Johns County deputy’s death says client was racially profiled

A civil attorney sent a letter to the State Attorney’s Office and the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office demanding that the charges against 18-year-old Vergilio Aguilar-Mendez be dropped.

Aguilar-Mendez is accused of manslaughter in the death of Sgt. Deputy Michael Kunovich.

A confrontation in May between the two happened after Sgt. Kunovich reported a suspicious person standing outside a closed business in St. Augustine.

There was about an 8-minute struggle as the deputy tried to search and handcuff Aguilar-Mendez, who only speaks Spanish, and shortly after the struggle Sgt. Kunovich died from cardiac dysrhythmia, the result of damaged arteries and high blood pressure.

MORE: Medical examiner says struggle with migrant, possible emotional stress contributed to death of St. Johns County deputy | Video of arrest in St. Johns County highlights issues between police, Spanish-speaking residents | Attorney says 2 key questions in death of St. Johns County deputy: How did he die and was suspect trespassing? | Video of arrest in St. Johns County highlights issues between police, Spanish-speaking residents

The case has received national attention and in the last seven days, more than 450,000 people signed an online petition calling for Vergilio Aguilar-Mendez to be released.

The young Guatemalan man who entered the country eight months before the incident and was undergoing the immigration process has now been sitting in jail for nearly 8 months. Now his civil attorney is demanding the State Attorney’s Office to drop the charges.

Here are some of the arguments in the demand letter sent to the state attorney, the sheriff’s office, and the St. Johns County Board of Commissioners on Friday.

It said the sheriff’s office blatantly and maliciously violated Aguilar-Mendez’s civil and constitutional rights, specifically, the 4th Amendment, which protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government.

His attorney accused Sgt. Kunovich of racial profiling and said he approached Aguilar-Mendez solely because of his Hispanic/Latino ethnicity, without any reasonable suspicion of any crime.

They also said Kunovich illegally stopped him and immediately seized him.

Based on the medical examiner’s ruling on the cause of death, Aguilar-Mendez’s attorney said Sgt. Kunovich’s irregular heartbeat was an unknown condition not foreseeable to anyone and added that Florida Law Enforcement officers are only required to undergo a medical exam before they become officers but don’t have to do yearly blood and stress tests to determine if their heart is strong enough to do the job.

MORE | ‘Be our guardian angel’: Son delivers emotional tribute at funeral for fallen St. Johns County Sgt. Michael Kunovich

News4JAX asked the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office if its deputies have frequent medical checkups or physicals, and if so, how many a year. The sheriff’s office said there were no responsive documents to our request.

MORE | Judge finds migrant accused in St. Johns County deputy’s death not competent for prosecution

Not only does the civil attorney want the charges dropped, they also want a full public retraction by the sheriff’s office that says Aguilar-Mendez was never trespassing and that the charges against him are not supported by law, and Kunovich violated multiple departmental guidelines in trying to detain him.

The sheriff’s office told News4JAX it won’t respond to any correspondence from the attorney.

The demand letter said it would give those who received the letter 7 days to respond and if not they will file a federal lawsuit based on civil rights violations.

Comments are closed, but trackbacks and pingbacks are open.