A Florida lawman is dead after a violent struggle with an illegal immigrant who is less than half his age.
The encounter began when 52-year-old Sgt. Michael Kunovich, a 25-year veteran of law enforcement who was working with the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office, encountered a young man on the night of May 19.
Kunovich found the man, now identified as 18-year-old Guatemala native Vergilio Aguilar Mendez, alone near a closed motel.
— Betsy Brantner Smith (@sgtbetsysmith) May 22, 2023
According to The Florida Times-Union, as Kunovich moved toward the teen, the young man turned and walked away.
Kunovich caught up with Mendez, and tried to check him for weapons.
After ignoring commands from the sergeant, Mendez broke from Kunovich and attempted to escape the lawman. It didn't work.
Deputies arrived to find Mendez still struggling against Kunovich. The veteran lawman turned his taser on Mendez, but it failed to stop the altercation.
At one point, the teen tried to strip the same weapon from the sergeant.
Mendez was soon handcuffed, but was able to arm himself with a knife while restrained. Deputies secured the weapon, but tragedy struck when Kunovich collapsed on the scene soon after.
He was quickly taken to a hospital, but doctors could do nothing to save him.
Mendez does not deny resisting law enforcement, claiming he was afraid of being deported back to his home country of Guatemala.
The teen is now being held on charges of murder and resisting arrest. Immigration and Customs Enforcement also has a detainer on Mendez, who was living in the United States illegally.
The impact of the veteran lawman's death was clear at his funeral, where fellow law enforcement, family and friends filled the service to honor Kunovich.
"Sergeant Kunovich will be deeply missed by not only his immediate family and his family at the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office, but also by our community," Sheriff Hardwick said, according to WJXT.
Kunovich's two sons, Michael and Max, were given folded flags and their father's service badge.
"Dad your shift was over way too soon," Michael Kunovich, said at the funeral. "Go rest high on the mountain, be our guardian angel and guide Max and I to serve like you did. I will always love you."
Kunovich's death is not an outlier. Illegal immigrants have been at the center of several recent heinous crimes.
Earlier this month Francisco Oropesa, an illegal immigrant living in Texas who had been deported multiple times, allegedly went to a neighboring family's house and slaughtered five people.
One of the victims of the massacre was just 8 years old.
In March, a 7-year-old and her grandmother were killed in Texas after their car was hit by a truck full of illegal immigrants. Eleven of the truck's passengers also died in the accident.
Illegal immigration isn't just a crime against our country and its citizens -- it leaves the immigrants themselves living in perpetual fear of arrest and deportation, and at the mercy of drug cartels and vicious human smugglers for much of their journey to the United States.
The major influx of people illegally crossing into the country isn't happening in a vacuum. According to one Border Patrol sector chief who testified to Congress in February, many of the immigrants believe the border to be "open" under President Joe Biden.
While we may one day soon see respect for the law make a comeback to the forefront of America's most cherished values, we must never forget those who held the line when chaos was the order of the day.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.