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Family of Vietnam veteran files wrongful death lawsuit against MA agencies

The family of Donald DePina, a Vietnam War veteran, filed a wrongful death lawsuit Thursday in Bristol County Superior Court against the Massachusetts Department of Youth Services and the Old Colony YMCA. (Submitted photo)

The family of a beloved New Bedford man and Vietnam War veteran filed a wrongful death lawsuit Thursday in Bristol County Superior Court against the Massachusetts Department of Youth Services and the Old Colony YMCA.

In a statement, Donald DePina’s family said his death “was a tragedy that should never have happened.”

The 66-year-old man was driving a cab in November 2015 when he was shot in Brooklawn Park in New Bedford.

Alexander Mills, who was 18 at the time, has been charged with first-degree murder and carrying a firearm without a license.

In the lawsuit, DePina's children claim Mills was permitted to walk out of a supposedly “staff secure facility.”

Mills was in the custody of DYS and was placed in a program at the Old Colony YMCA in Fall River on Eastern Avenue. He was living in a home for troubled teens and had been convicted of several felonies, including assault and battery.

According to the lawsuit, Mills was able to walk out of the building -- due to security failures -- 18 days before he's accused of murdering DePina. The lawsuit alleges that Old Colony YMCA failed to alarm its doors and didn't report the incident to DYS until nearly an hour after Mills slipped away from the facility.

The lawsuit claims that DYS had a recurring and systemic problem with offenders escaping.

DYS had no comment on the lawsuit. Old Colony YMCA never returned phone calls seeking a comment.

The lawsuit also includes three unnamed employees at Old Colony YMCA as defendants for their role in Mills' escape.

Mills is awaiting trial. A date has not been set.

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