HUNTING buddy sues Knight over 1999 hunting accident

Tuesday, August 7th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

MADISON, Wis. (AP) _ Texas Tech basketball coach Bob Knight lied to investigators and pressured a hunting buddy into falsifying details of a 1999 shooting accident to avoid potential legal problems, according to a lawsuit filed Monday.

Thomas Mikunda of Exeland claims in the lawsuit Knight negligently shot at a grouse, even though he was in the line of fire, striking him in the back and shoulder. Mikunda claims Knight then coerced him into backing his version of the accident to avoid problems with his head coaching job at Indiana University.

The school fired him a year later for what it called a pattern of misconduct.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages and legal costs for Mikunda, who was hit by 16 shotgun pellets in the hunting accident in northern Wisconsin. The wounds were not life-threatening.

Calls The Associated Press made to Mikunda's home went unanswered Monday.

Knight, at a golf outing to raise money for a Texas Tech booster club, refused to comment, saying he had not seen the lawsuit.

Knight told investigators at the time his finger slipped on the trigger of his shotgun as he turned to aim at a grouse, accidentally firing the gun before he was ready to shoot.

But the lawsuit contends Knight fired at the grouse intentionally, ignoring the danger to Mikunda, who was about 20 yards away.

Knight was cited in the Oct. 12, 1999, incident for failing to report a hunting accident and hunting without a nonresident small game license in 1999 and 1998. He pleaded no contest to each count and paid $582.10 in fines.

The lawsuit also claims Knight lied to investigators when he told them he didn't think he needed a license to hunt on private property.

Tim Lawhern, the hunter educator administrator for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, said the state could re-open its investigation into the shooting if the suit produces more evidence that contradicts what Knight told investigators.

``If anything else came out of this that was brought to our attention or were made aware of, we could certainly go to the district attorney to see what they wanted to do with it,'' Lawhern said. In Wisconsin, local district attorneys decide whether to bring criminal charges in hunting accidents.

Shelly Sullivan, a spokeswoman for the San Francisco law firm representing Mikunda, said lawyers were unable to reach a settlement with Knight before filing the lawsuit.

Indiana fired Knight for violating a ``zero-tolerance'' policy it imposed following an internal investigation that turned up a videotape showing Knight with his hand around a former player's neck.

Texas Tech hired the Hall of Fame coach this spring.