Lawsuit blames JBLM in wrongful death of Lakewood 13-year-old

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LAKEWOOD, Wash. -- A local family says JBLM is to blame for the shooting death of a teenager, according to a new federal lawsuit.

Alex DeMello, 13, died after being shot in the face by a friend. Police investigators said he was shot after the boys snuck through a hole in a fence that is supposed to secure the military installation.

The DeMello family and their attorney said JBLM knew the hole in the fence had existed for years – and if it had been repaired last fall, Alex might still be alive.

“I have little kids,” said neighbor Racheal Henington. “The last thing I want is for them to end up in there and something happen to them.”

Henington lives nearly a quarter-mile from JBLM and the area where DeMello died. She said she tries to make sure her children avoid crossing onto JBLM property.

“It’s a base,” she said. “It’s dangerous.”

Police said  in October that Alex and his buddies snuck onto JBLM through a giant 6-foot by 3-foot hole in the security fence at the end of Woodbrook Drive.

Investigators say DeMello’s friend found a handgun while walking on base property and unintentionally fired it. The bullet hit Alex in his head, and he died days later at a hospital.

The wrongful death lawsuit alleges the shooting would never have happened if JBLM made sure the fence was secure. The suit also claims the hole in the fence had been there for at least nine years.

The DeMello family is seeking unspecified damages, and their attorney said they want to make sure JBLM keeps the area off-limits to the public.

An official with JBLM told Q13 News that DeMello's death was tragic, but they cannot comment on pending lawsuits.