An employee at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma reported one vehicle on fire and said the suspect was also attempting to ignite a large propane tank outside the facility, the Tacoma Police Department said in a statement.
BREAKING: Tacoma PD says officers shot and killed a man after the Northwest Detention Center reported someone outside their facility with a rifle attempting to set the building on fire. pic.twitter.com/Ys5rWeyULQ
— #Q13FOX (@Q13FOX) July 13, 2019
When four officers arrived at about 4 a.m., shots were fired and the suspect was later determined to be deceased at the scene.
“Officers noted that in addition to the weapon, he was wearing a satchel and had flares on his person,” the statement said, adding that no officers were injured.
“This morning’s attack at the ICE detention center in Tacoma was a horrific act of violence that has shaken us all,” Washington Governor and 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful Jay Inslee wrote on Twitter.
This morning’s attack at the ICE detention center in Tacoma was a horrific act of violence that has shaken us all. While we await details and ID of the perpetrator, thanks to @TacomaPD for their quick response to ensure no harm came to individuals being detained or any employees
— Governor Jay Inslee (@GovInslee) July 13, 2019
The Northwest Detention Center is privately operated by The GEO Group on behalf of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
On Saturday night, the Pierce County Medical Examiner’s Office identified the man as Willem Van Spronsen of Vashon Island, the Tacoma News-Tribune and the Seattle Times reported.
Police spokeswoman Loretta Cool told Reuters that the medical examiner’s report could be expected as early as Monday.
A friend of Van Spronsen, who described Van Spronsen as an anarchist and anti-fascist, said that she thinks he wanted to provoke a fatal conflict, the Seattle Times reported.
“He was ready to end it,” Bartley said. “I think this was a suicide. But then he was able to kind of do it in a way that spoke to his political beliefs.
“I know he went down there knowing he was going to die.”
The guy who attacked the ICE detention centre was a 69-year-old anarchist named Will Van Spronsen. This is him. pic.twitter.com/TdNUM0Jqk5
— Jake Hanrahan (@Jake_Hanrahan) July 14, 2019
Van Spronsen had an existing criminal record after being accused of assaulting a police officer during a protest outside the detention center in 2018, The News-Tribune reported. According to court documents, he wrapped his arms around the officer’s neck and shoulders as the officer was trying to detain a 17-year-old protester on June 26, 2018.
According to court documents, police handcuffed Van Spronsen and found that he had a collapsible baton and a folding knife in his pocket. Van Spronsen pleaded guilty to the charge of obstructing police, and was given a deferred sentence in October, the newspaper reported.
Cool said the incident took place several hours after a peaceful rally protesting the Trump administration’s detention of illegal immigrants outside the facility. She said another rally was scheduled for Saturday, but that it would have to be moved to a different area as authorities were still processing the crime scene.
“The outrageous and baseless accusations that have been leveled against our facilities have led to misplaced aggression and a dangerous environment for our employees, whose safety is our top priority,” a spokesperson for The GEO Group said in a statement emailed to Reuters.
“Our facilities have never been overcrowded, nor have they ever housed unaccompanied minors,” the statement said, adding that the company’s facilities “offer modern amenities” such as air conditioning, recreational activities, medical care and legal services.
Officers involved in the Saturday shooting were placed on paid administrative leave per department policy, police said.
The incident happened as a planned nationwide operation to enforce the deportation of illegal immigrants is set to begin over the weekend.
The administration said the operation is to target 2,000 criminals who have outstanding deportation orders from the immigration courts in 10 major cities across the nation.
Acting Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Ken Cuccinelli told Fox News last week that the planned deportations were not about targeting families as the Democrats had claimed, and are what ICE is supposed to do.
“There’s approximately a million people in this country with removal orders,” he said, adding, “It’s worth remembering that this massive influx of fraudulent asylum claims are swamping the people who truly fit that category; the people who are persecuted for political or religious reasons, or other reasons. Those people are being swamped, and they’re caught in a backlog caused by an enormous number of false claims.”
With reporting by The Associated Press and Epoch Times staff.
69-Year-Old Anti-Fascist Dies After Attacking Immigrant Detention Facility on Eve of Planned Deportations