Illegal Accused in Death of Police Officer Released Because He Didn’t Speak English

On Friday, Virgilio Aguilar Mendez, a 19-year-old Guatemalan illegal immigrant, was released from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody after being charged with aggravated manslaughter of a police officer in May 2023. The incident involved St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Michael Kunovich, a 25-year veteran, who died as a result of the encounter.

According to the sheriff’s office, the altercation began when Sgt. Kunovich approached Aguilar Mendez, suspecting him of a crime. Despite Aguilar Mendez’s limited English proficiency, as evidenced by his apology and statement, “I’m sorry, no speak, no speak English,” the situation escalated. Sheriff Robert Hardwick stated that the migrant was tased and tackled to the ground by responding deputies, including Spanish-speaking officers.

Aguilar Mendez’s attorney, Jose Baez, argued that his client was confused and did not understand the reason for the officers’ actions, which included physically striking him multiple times and the repeated use of a Taser by Sgt. Kunovich. A lawsuit filed by Baez claimed that Lt. Jose Jimenez, another responding deputy, failed to inform Aguilar Mendez of his Miranda rights or obtain an interpreter for him.

The 7th District State Attorney’s Office considered expert testimony regarding Aguilar Mendez’s inability to comprehend English, his cultural background, and concerns about his intellectual capacity. They ultimately dismissed the charges, deeming the arrest and time served as sufficient, given the court’s ruling that the defendant was incompetent to proceed based on the expert testimony.

The release of the release of an illegal immigrant accused of a serious crime against a law enforcement officer is a serious miscarriage of justice and a massive failure of the immigration system.

Further the decision to dismiss the charges based on the defendant’s language and cultural barriers, as well as his alleged intellectual capacity, illustrates how the courts are giving deference to illegals over American citizens charged with similar crimes. None of these factors should supersede the gravity of the offense and the loss of a dedicated public servant.

Virgilio Aguilar Mendez should have gone to prison rather than released without charges and his example will only embolden others to commit equal or worse crimes.