JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Law enforcement, family, and loved ones gathered to remember St. Johns County Sheriff's Office Sergeant Michael Kunovich on Friday morning.
Kunovich died after experiencing medical distress following an altercation while on the job.
An American flag covered his casket. His family, including two sons, followed as it was carried inside the church.
"He took his serving his community very seriously today in his service, seeing his shift and how young the guys are, that are working on shift. Knowing that he was mentoring them all along the way, and just carrying on that law enforcement tradition is serving his community is serving it well. I'm sure his guys will carry that on greatly," Retired St. Johns County Chief Brian Lee said.
Hundreds of people gathered at St. Joseph's Catholic Church on Old St. Augustine Road before the procession began immediately after the service.
There was an exceptional attendance of law enforcement agencies present including: the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, St. Augustine Police Department, Melbourne Police Department, U.S. Park Rangers, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Florida Highway Patrol, FBI and numerous county's sheriff's offices.
"Mike was just a treasure. He was he was a road dog. He was out there on the road with the guys," Retired SJSO Captain Shawn Lee said.
"He did have a big heart, he's caring," Retired SJSO Chief Brian Lee added.
Shawn and Brian Lee, both retired from the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office, worked with Kunovich on the force and attended his service.
"The hardest part is just watching his boys Mikey and Max get up there and talk about their dad. I think it's good for those boys to see the outpouring of love from the law enforcement community," Shawn Lee said.
Following the service at St. Joseph's Catholic Church, Sergeant Kunovich was escorted by the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office to Oaklawn Cemetery where he was laid to rest.
Colleagues remember Sgt. Kunovich
The people who worked with Sgt. Kunovich remember him fondly.
"He worked for me for many years before I retired," Art May said. May has retired from the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office. He can't help but smile when thinking about Kunovich.
"He was kind of a joking kind of a guy. Had a smiley grin on his face," May remembered.
Kunovich, 52, worked for the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office for 25 years.
"I had worked with him for several years while we were both deputies," retired deputy Bo Strange told First Coast News. "He was just a really hard-working deputy. Very conscientious, by the book. He loved his family."
Former colleagues of Kunovich were saddened to hear the news that he died Friday while on duty.
The St. Johns County Sheriff’s office says Kunovich went over to a man who was sitting in the dark outside a closed business Friday night on State Road 16, near the interstate. According to the sheriff's office, the man fought Kunovich, tried to take his taser, and was eventually arrested. Kunovich then went into medical distress and died.
"It was very surprising when I heard it," May said. "Mike was in good shape. He wasn't a slouch at all. He always kept himself up. When I heard that, I was like, 'Wow -- a heart attack or something like that.'"
Deputies honored him Monday by escorting his body to the funeral home.
"I remember him in his very early days of law enforcement," Putnam County Chief Deputy Joseph Wells said, "He as a very eager young man with a passion to serve his community."
May also remembers Kunovich was a "good runner". May shared a story about Kunovich running after a man who was wanted.
"The only thing I saw was Kunovich running across the field, down the railroad tracks and tackling this guy as he was running! And I thought, 'That was Flash!' He was unbelievably fast."
Impressions from colleagues who worked with and will miss Sgt. Mike Kunovich.