Fla. sheriff's sergeant dies of heart attack after altercation with suspect
Sgt. Michael Kunovich was attempting to arrest a suspect for nearly seven minutes; he later collapsed once the suspect was disarmed and arrested
Duty Death: Michael Kunovich - [St. Augustine, Florida]
End of Service: 05/19/2023
By Sarah Roebuck
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — St. Johns County Sheriff's Office Sergeant Michael Kunovich died May 19 after having a heart attack following an altercation with a suspect, WTLV reports.
According to the department, Kunovich approached an individual sitting in a dark parking lot in St. Augustine. The man was later identified as Vergilio Aguilar Mendez.
Mendez was being patted down for weapons by Kunovich when he pulled away and tried to run. Additional deputies arrived to help with the struggle before Mendez attempted to grab Kunovich's TASER. The sheriff's office said Mendez continued to resist for six minutes and 19 seconds.
After Mendez was handcuffed, he pulled out a pocketknife, which deputies were able to remove.
Moments after Mendez was disarmed, Kunovich collapsed. The sheriff's office said lifesaving measures were initiated by responders on the scene, but he was pronounced dead shortly after transport to a nearby 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,” Sheriff Robert Hardwick said in a news release.
Mendez has been charged with resisting with violence and felony murder. He is being held in the St. Johns County Jail on a $50,000 bond.
Kunovich was a 25-year veteran of the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office.