An Antifa activist who attempted to besiege an immigration detention center in Tacoma, Washington was killed following a standoff with police this weekend.
He is a documented member of the left-wing paramilitary organization, the John Brown Gun Club.
69-year-old Willem Van Spronsen was fatally shot on Saturday after throwing firebombs at buildings in the detention center. Police also say he attempted to set a commercial-size propane tank on fire, and managed to set some vehicles on fire. Court records of the deceased man show that he was previously arrested last year following a protest at the site.
Video footage of Van Spronsen, captured by Andy Ngo, show him participating in a Seattle demonstration with other members of Antifa. He is a documented member of the left-wing paramilitary organization, the John Brown Gun Club, based in Puget Sound.
The Vashon Island resident died at the scene following a shootout with police. No ICE employees or police were hurt in the incident.
“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,” said Shawn Fallah, who heads the ICE Office of Professional Responsibility, in a statement. “These are the kinds of incidents that keep you up at night.”
Van Spronsen attacked the facility as thousands are protesting ICE offices and detention centers nationwide ahead of the agency’s planned arrest of about 2,000 families on Sunday. The Trump administration revealed earlier this week that it would focus its efforts on as many as 10 cities. Seattle is not among the list of targeted locations.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement called the man an “anti-immigration enforcement protester.”
Further history of the man shows that he maintained a long-time association with the Antifa protest movement, a loosely organized group of left-wing activists. Members of the movement have since elevated him to martyrdom for his failed attack on ICE.
Van Spronsen was previously arrested for protesting the facility in June 2018. During his previous arrest, the prosecutor states that he lunged at a police officer who was detaining a fellow protester. He later pled guilty to obstruction of justice.
"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."
Deb Bartley, who calls herself a long-time friend of Van Spronsen told the Seattle Times that she believed this was a suicide by cop.
“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.”
She told the paper that she and other mutual friends received letters in the mail “just saying goodbye,” including what she called a manifesto. She did not share details about the document, but expects police will seize the material.
In a statement to the press, the Tacoma Police Department said officers responding to the incident “called out” to Van Spronsen, and that “shots were fired.” The police did not elaborate on whether he fired back.
Despite the attack, the facility did not go on lockdown and continued normal operation throughout the weekend.
Ian Miles Cheong is the managing editor of Human Events