July 14, 2019 / 5:25 PM / 2 months ago

Man who attacked Tacoma immigration center was repeat assailant: authorities

(Reuters) - Authorities in Tacoma, Washington, have named a man who was killed after attacking an immigration detention facility, and court records showed he had been previously arrested for assaulting a police officer at a protest outside the same facility.

Police say Willem Van Spronsen, 69, was armed with a rifle and incendiary devices when he attacked the Northwest Detention Center before dawn on Saturday. The Pierce County Medical Examiner’s office said he died of multiple gunshot wounds.

According to authorities, Van Spronsen set fire to one vehicle in the parking lot and was trying to ignite a propane tank when he was confronted by four police officers who opened fire on him. None of the officers were injured.

The Tacoma Police Department did not immediately respond to a request for further comment on Sunday.

Van Spronsen was arrested last year for assaulting a police officer during a protest outside the same detention center, according to court records. He pleaded guilty to a charge of obstructing police and was released from custody in October.

Saturday’s attack on the facility took place several hours after a peaceful rally protesting immigrant detentions outside the facility, according to authorities.

The center is privately operated by GEO Group Inc on behalf of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The incident in Tacoma happened as a nationwide wave of arrests of immigrants facing deportation is set to begin over the weekend.

The operation is expected to target hundreds of families in 10 cities who have recently been ordered deported by an immigration court but have not yet left the country.

A senior ICE official told the Washington Post that the attack in Tacoma could have resulted in the mass murder of staff and detainees housed at the facility.

“These are the kinds of incidents that keep you up at night,” Shawn Fallah, who heads the ICE Office of Professional Responsibility, said in a statement.

Reporting by Gabriella Borter in New York; Editing by Nick Zieminski

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