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'Dude, I shot myself'

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Kyle Reinhart and his buddy had been driving around the backcountry of Roseau County, Minn., on Monday night dusting bunnies. After bagging a big jackrabbit, Reinhart's friend stopped to relieve himself.

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Reinhart, meanwhile, stepped out to unload his .40-caliber handgun. He dropped the clip out of the gun, then went to remove a round left in the chamber.

"I slide back to eject the shell, but my hands must have been sweaty or greasy, and it slipped, and it shot me right underneath the knee," he said.

The jacketed hollow point bullet put a "nasty hole" in his left leg, he said, and became lodged in his bone, cracking it.

Excruciating, no?

"Actually, I didn't feel anything," the 22-year-old said. "My knee was starting to swell up like crazy, and then I collapsed, and my knee was locked."

Reinhart told his pal who was near the back of the vehicle: "Dude, I shot myself."

"He was like, 'No you didn't.' I said, 'Come take a look at it,' and he was like, 'Whoa -- crap.'"

His friend took him to the Roseau hospital, where Reinhart was treated then transferred to Altru in Grand Forks. He underwent surgery Tuesday morning to have the bullet removed.

"I told them before they knocked me out -- I said, 'This may sound kind of stupid, but I want to keep the bullet,'" he said, showing off a cell phone photo of the crumpled, gold-colored slug that his mom is hanging onto for safekeeping.

Tuesday afternoon, Reinhart was laid up in a hospital bed with his leg in a brace. He said his pain level was a three on a scale of one to 10.

Reinhart, who was listed in satisfactory condition, said the placement of the bullet was "really lucky."

"If it would have been one inch off, I would have busted my knee and shattered it and I would have no leg," he said.

Reinhart, of Warroad, said a doctor told him the injury won't keep him from walking. He expects he'll be in the hospital for about five or six days and assumes he'll be on crutches for a while.

The Roseau County Sheriff's Office investigated the incident and determined it was an accident. Chief Deputy Terry Bandemer said it's standard procedure to investigate such a shooting.

Reinhart said he and his friend weren't drinking alcohol or doing drugs that night. But he acknowledged he wasn't entirely clear on the rules of rabbit hunting. According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, rabbits can't be hunted after sunset without a nuisance permit.

Reinhart offered some cautionary words for other gunslingers: "Be darn careful to get a good hand grip on the slide, and keep your finger off the trigger."

Ingersoll reports on crime and courts. Reach him at (701) 780-1269; (800) 477-6572, ext. 269; or send e-mail to aingersoll@gfherald.com.

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