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HAMMOND — A former Lake County police lieutenant whose drunken driving injured an Illinois man at the 2016 Gary Air Show is now blaming former Sheriff John Buncich for his alcohol abuse.

Guy Mikulich is seeking more than $75,000 in damages from Buncich, county government and other unidentified defendants to compensate him for the loss of his law enforcement career and years of job stress in a lawsuit he filed earlier this week in U.S. District Court in Hammond.

F. Harrison Green, a Cincinnati attorney representing Mikulich, said, "He was under a disability at the time, the department was aware of it and was responsible for his conduct because of the position he was placed in."

Mikulich pleaded guilty, but mentally ill, earlier this week in Lake Criminal Court to felonies that he was driving his squad car while intoxicated July 10, 2016, when he struck Derrick Dircks, 34, of Frankfort, Illinois, at the air show and left the scene of the accident.

Mikulich is serving 2½ years of home detention, has agreed not to possess a firearm or seek future employment as a law enforcement officer.

He told the criminal court judge earlier this week his struggle with mental illness was well known to the Lake County Sheriff's Department, and he blamed his former employer for not adequately addressing the mental health issues of its officers.

His suit newly alleges he suffered mental exhaustion during his 16 years on the county police force from being trained to provoke arrests to meet department quotas and punish other county police officers who politically campaigned against Buncich's re-election.

Lake County had to pay $130,000 in 2009 to Victor Argandona, a one-armed Whiting man Mikulich assaulted, while off duty, in a dispute over a girlfriend.

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Mikulich alleges in his new suit that he began counseling in 2010 for depression and anger management.

Mikulich alleges Buncich had made accommodations to others with similar emotional issues, but Buncich responded to Mikulich's pleas for help by telling Mikulich to "suck it up and act like a man."

Buncich is serving a 188-month prison term, currently at a federal secure medical facility in Springfield, Missouri, after a U.S. District Court jury found him guilty of bribery.

Mikulich alleges he was continuously ridiculed and his professional competency was maligned and he was the subject of "... humiliating cartoons and jokes ..."

Buncich and the county police merit board fired Mikulich last fall over Mikulich's 2016 accident. Dircks is suing Mikulich and the county for his injuries.

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Lake County Reporter

Bill has reported in Lake County since 1972 after graduating from Indiana University. He has worked for The Times since 1997, covering the courts and local government during much of his tenure. Born and raised in New Albany, Ind., he is a native Hoosier.