Police in Tacoma, Washington, killed an armed Antifa extremist early on July 13 after the man threw firebombs at an immigrant detention building and cars in the parking lot and attempted to blow up a large propane tank.
The man succeeded in setting one car on fire before officers responded at 4 a.m. and gunned him down, according to the Tacoma Police Department. The man was armed with a rifle and wore a satchel with flares, the police said. No officers were hurt in the encounter.
“This morning’s attack at the ICE detention center in Tacoma was a horrific act of violence that has shaken us all,” Washington Gov. Jay Inslee wrote on Twitter.
Inslee, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, quickly turned to politics, attacking President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, but added: “Violence is not acceptable. We must be better and seek non-violent ways of pursuing the better world we want, as many groups are doing.”
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 Pierce County Medical Examiner’s Office identified the man as Willem Van Spronsen of Vashon Island, according to The Seattle Times.
A friend of Van Spronsen, who described him as an anarchist and anti-fascist, said she thinks he wanted to provoke a fatal conflict, The Seattle Times reported. Anti-fascists in the United States refer to themselves as Antifa.
One America News Network journalist Jack Posobiec obtained a copy of a manifesto Van Spronsen mailed to several associates before the attack.
“I am Antifa,” Van Spronsen wrote in the three-page manifesto. “This is my clear opportunity to make a difference, I’d be an ingrate to be waiting for a more obvious invitation.”
Throughout the manifesto, Van Spronsen uses the phrase “concentration camps” to refer to immigrant detention facilities. The term, which commonly refers to extermination camps run by the Nazis during World War II, was misappropriated by Democratic socialist Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).
In June last year, Van Spronsen was arrested during a protest at the same detention center. According to court documents, Van Spronsen wrapped his arms around a police officer’s neck and shoulders as the officer attempted to detain another protester.
After officers handcuffed Van Spronsen, they found a collapsible baton and a folding knife in his pocket, court documents say. He pleaded guilty to obstructing police and was given a deferred one-year sentence in October, The Seattle Times reported.
Van Spronsen’s July 13 attack on the facility occurred several hours after a rally protesting the detention of illegal aliens.
“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 spokesperson added that the company’s facilities “offer modern amenities” such as air conditioning, recreational activities, medical care, and legal services.
Officers involved in the 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 will target 2,000 criminals who have outstanding deportation orders from 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 weren’t about targeting families, as Democrats have claimed.
“There’s approximately a million people in this country with removal orders,” he said. “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.”
The Northwest Detention Center is privately operated by The GEO Group on behalf of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.