The Latest: Friend says man wanted to provoke deadly fight

TACOMA, Wash. (AP) — The Latest on the death of a man who confronted police after he reportedly threw incendiary devices at an immigration jail in Washington state early Saturday morning(all times local):

9:10 p.m.

A friend of the man who authorities say died after throwing explosive devices at an immigration jail in Tacoma says that she thinks he wanted to provoke a fatal conflict, the Seattle Times reports.

Deb Bartley, who tells the Times she has been a friend of Willem Van Spronsen’s for about 20 years, described him as an anarchist and anti-fascist, and believes his attack on the detention center intending to provoke a fatal conflict.

“He was ready to end it,” Bartley told the Times. “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 says that she and other friends of Van Spronsen got letters in the mail “just saying goodbye.” He also wrote what she referred to as a manifesto, which she declined to discuss in detail, the Times reports.

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8 p.m.

The Pierce County Medical Examiner’s Office identified the man who threw incendiary devices at an immigration jail in Tacoma as Willem Van Spronsen, 69, of Vashon Island, the Tacoma News-Tribune and the Seattle Times report.

The News-Tribune reports that Van Spronsen was accused of assaulting a police officer during a protest outside the detention center in 2018.

The newspaper reports that court documents say he lunged at the officer and wrapped his arms around the officer’s neck and shoulders, as the officer was trying to detain a 17-year-old protester 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.

The News-Tribune reports that Van Spronsen pleaded guilty to the charge of obstructing police, and was given a deferred sentence in October.

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6:56 p.m.

A man armed with a rifle threw incendiary devices at an immigration jail in Washington state early Saturday morning, then was found dead after four police officers arrived and opened fire, authorities said.

The Tacoma Police Department said the officers responded at about 4 a.m. to the privately run Tacoma Northwest Detention Center, a U.S. Department of Homeland Security detention facility that holds migrants pending deportation proceedings. The detention center has also held immigration-seeking parents separated from their children under President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy, an effort meant to deter illegal immigration.

The shooting took place about six hours after a peaceful rally in front of the detention center, police spokesman Loretta Cool said. She said another rally was planned for later Saturday, but it would have to be held in a different area because of the investigation into the police shooting.

Police said the man caused a vehicle to catch fire and that he attempted to ignite a large propane tank and set buildings on fire. Police said that besides the rifle, he had a satchel and flares.

Police said officers called out to the man, and shots were fired.

Associated Press

Associated Press

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