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Charges dropped against Guatemalan immigrant accused in police officer’s death

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Charges against Virgilio Aguilar-Mendez are dropped (Photo: St. Johns County Sheriff's Office)
  • Charges against Virgilio Aguilar-Mendez are dropped.
  • The Guatemalan immigrant had been accused of manslaughter.
  • A police officer died after an altercation with him.

After being accused of murder, an undocumented Guatemalan immigrant has received news that completely changed his life.

The case alarmed human rights organizations as he faced serious charges with potential sentence of up to 30 years in prison.

Now, new information has come to light and the charges have been dropped.

Before you continue reading, we invite you to listen to the new Tu Mundo Hoy podcast by clicking HERE.


Podcast, Noticias, Tu Mundo Hoy, Óyenos Audio, MundoNOW
Photo: MundoNOW

Guatemalan immigrant accused of manslaughter

Virgilio Aguilar is released, Guatemalan, Florida, prison, MundoNOW
Photo: Shutterstock

Virgilio Aguilar-Méndez, a 19-year-old Guatemalan immigrant, had been held without bail in Florida since last May.

Aguilar, who does not understand English or Spanish, was charged with aggravated manslaughter and resisting arrest.

This followed the death of police officer Michael Paul Kunovich, following an altercation.

Kunovich, a sergeant with the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Department, died on May 19, 2023, of a heart attack following Aguilar-Méndez’s arrest.

Charges against Virgilio Aguilar-Méndez are dropped

Virgilio Aguilar, Hispanic, Guatemalan, Florida, MundoNOW
Photo: St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office

However, after spending nearly a year in prison, Aguilar-Méndez’s lawyer reported that he was released from jail last Friday, according to Telemundo.

A judge in St. Johns County ruled that he was not competent to stand trial due to his limited proficiency in Spanish and English. Subsequently, the prosecution dropped the charges.

“He has been in prison for nearly 10 months. Today, finally, he will be released from federal custody. It took a long journey to get here,” said lawyer Phillip Arroyo.

This release underscores the challenges faced by migrants, especially those who do not speak the predominant languages in the U.S. legal system.

Why was Virgilio Aguilar-Méndez arrested in 2023?

Virgilio Aguilar, accused, murder, Florida, MundoNOW
Photo: St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office

Aguilar-Méndez’s case also underscores the importance of ensuring adequate legal defense for all individuals, regardless of their origin or what language they speak.

The lack of access to proper interpretation services can have devastating consequences in the judicial system, as demonstrated by this case.

Police allege that Aguilar-Méndez worked on a farm and went out onto the street in front of the hotel where he was staying in St. Augustine to talk with his family in Guatemala.

According to the arrest report, Sergeant Kunovich first saw him standing in the parking lot of a Super 8 motel around 9:00 p.m. on May 16, 2023.

Sergeant Michael Kunovich died of a heart attack

Sergeant, Michael Kunovich, murder, USA, MundoNOW
Photo: St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office

Virgilio Aguilar-Méndez began walking away and Sergeant Michael Kunovich ordered him to stop.

After the teen said he didn’t speak English and continued resisting the officer, he was tased six times in just two minutes.

After the arrest, Sergeant Michael Kunovich collapsed on the street and was taken to the hospital where he died of a heart attack.

Aguilar-Méndez was charged with manslaughter as a result, however, the sergeant’s medical records detail that he suffered from cardiac arrhythmia, damaged arteries and high blood pressure.

Virgilio is released from prison

Hispanic, prison, murder, USA, MundoNOW
Photo: TikTok

Virgilio Aguilar-Méndez’s lawyer shared the video of the moment he was finally released from prison.

His lawyer commented: “THANK YOU to everyone for your words. It was an honor to represent Virgilio!”

“Thank you very much to all the lawyers who helped Virgilio,” one person commented.

“Congratulations on Virgilio Aguilar’s release. Keep helping us immigrants who only come to work for the future of our families,” reads another comment. To see the video of Virgilio Aguilar-Méndez being released from prison click HERE.

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