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Man Throwing 'Incendiary Devices' at ICE Detention Center Is Killed in Attack

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Man Throwing 'Incendiary Devices' at ICE Detention Center Is Killed in Attack

2019-07-15 15:06:361 Oct 2018 01:53 AM EST

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Burned car left after a man threw "incendiary devices" at ICE detention center (Image source: Screenshot)



Really, this was only a matter of time. The more Donald Trump sets laws that treat migrants and immigrants as less than human, the more there is going to be drama surrounding the situation that pulls everyone in.  

Mixed in with protests at Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facilities across the country before the mass deportations of undocumented immigrants scheduled for Sunday, a man appeared early Saturday morning at the ICE detention center in Tacoma, Washington, and threw "incendiary devices" at buildings and at cars. He later died after being shot.


The privately-owned GEO Group owns and operates the Northwest Detention Center on the Tacoma Tideflats for ICE. It has a capacity of 1,575, making it one of the largest immigration detention facilities in the country.  

Around 4 a.m. on Saturday, Willem Van Spronsen, 69, threw "lit objects" at buildings and cars, leading to a car going up in flames.


The police said in a statement that officers "called out" to him and that "shots were fired," but did not elaborate.  

Loretta Cool, spokeswoman for the Tacoma Police Department, said she did not know whether Van Spronsen had fired the rifle he'd been carrying. He also had flares on his body, according to police. The medical examiner's office reported he had gunshot wounds.


The officers, uninjured, pulled back, and "medical aide was staged" nearby. Officers approached him and believed he still had his weapon. He was found dead. 

"We are extremely grateful to the officers of the Tacoma Police Department who reacted quickly to the incident that occurred outside the Northwest Detention Center this morning," said acting field office director at Seattle Enforcement and Removal Operations at ICE, Michael Melendez, in a statement.


Court records show that Van Spronsen, a Vashon Island resident, was arrested last year at a protest at the same detention center. ICE referred to him as an "anti-immigration-enforcement protester."  

He was arrested during what was described as a noisy protest that included yelling, banging on pots and pans, megaphones, and honking horns. He lunged at a police officer, wrapping his arms around the officer's neck to free a 17-year-old protester who was being held.


A longtime friend of Van Spronsen's, Deb Bartley, believes he intended to die on Sunday. "He was ready to end it," she 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." 

While she offered that he left a "manifesto," she didn't share its details but believes it will be used by authorities. She and others received letters from him "saying goodbye."


While his death was the only one on Sunday morning, Shawn Fallah, who leads the ICE Office of Professional Responsibility, said, "This could have resulted in the mass murder of staff and detainees housed at the facility had he been successful at setting the tank ablaze," adding, "These are the kinds of incidents that keep you up at night." 

With news stories reporting the inhumane conditions migrants are being kept in, some critics believe the government should stop its use of privately-run detention centers, like the Tacoma facility.


Pablo Paez,  GEO Group spokesman, said the company is concerned that "outrageous and baseless accusations that have been leveled against our facilities have led to misplaced aggression and a dangerous environment for our employees." 

"Contrary to the images of other facilities on the news, our facilities have never been overcrowded, nor have they ever housed unaccompanied minors," said Paez.

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