Tacoma Police Department said in an update late Thursday that the 69-year-old man who tried to firebomb an immigration detention center on Saturday claimed association with Antifa, a violent far-left “anti-fascist” movement, and was once a member of a self-proclaimed anti-fascist gun club.
Tacoma Police Department Public Information Officer Loretta Cool said in an update emailed to reporters:
Subsequent investigation into the events leading up to the shooting and possible motivations for suspect Willem Van Spronsen have been discovered. Detectives have learned that the suspect claimed association with Antifa. Willem Van Spronsen was a known anarchist as well and was once a member of the Puget Sound John Brown Gun Club, a self-proclaimed anti-fascist organization.
It is the first time the Tacoma Police Department, which is leading the investigation into Van Spronsen in cooperation with the FBI, has acknowledged a link between Willem Van Spronsen and Antifa.
It is also the first time the police department is acknowledging his membership in the Puget Sound John Brown Gun Club, which was featured on CNN’s United Shades of America in a May 5th episode. Van Spronsen was featured throughout the episode, in which the host praised the club’s members.
Cool also acknowledged for the first time that Van Spronsen left behind a “manifesto.”
“Detectives are still reviewing a ‘manifesto’ letter authored by Willem Van Spronsen which was widely distributed by him prior to his death. The Tacoma Police Department was not made aware of the letter prior to the investigation of the incident,” she said.
Local TV station KIRO-TV published what it said was Van Spronsen’s manifesto on their website, which showed he used the term “concentration camps” when referring to immigration detention facilities, echoing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY)’s use of the term.
The manifesto said:
There’s wrong and there’s right. it’s time to take action against the forces of evil. evil says one life is worth less than another. evil says the flow of commerce is our purpose here. evil says concentration camps for folks deemed lesser are necessary. The handmaid of evil says the concentration camps should be more humane.
It also stated, “I am antifa, i stand with comrades around the world who act from the love of life in every permutation.”
Ocasio-Cortez this week did not respond to a Rebel News reporter asking if she would condemn Van Spronsen’s attack or Antifa:
— Trump War Room (@TrumpWarRoom) July 15, 2019
Some editors on Wikipedia have tried to distance Van Spronsen from the Antifa movement.
Cool also said surveillance video viewed by the police department showed Van Spronsen manipulating what appears to be an AR-15 style rifle, and starting a fire to a building owned by the detention center and placing flares in strategic locations, including underneath a 500-gallon propane tank.
She said he was also observed igniting his vehicle, causing a large scale explosion, and throwing what is believed to be Molotov cocktails at surrounding buildings. She said he continued these actions until police arrived on scene, and that he made no attempt to flee despite the sound of police sirens approaching.
She said police officers Sgt. C. Martin, Officer J. Correa, Officer E. Allman and Officer W. Gustason stated that they were confronted by Van Spronsen, who had a rifle pointed at them. She said they told him to “drop the weapon,” but Van Spronsen failed to comply and the officers fired at him. He was struck with two rounds which caused fatal injuries, she said.
Tacoma Police Chief Don Ramsdell said “countless lives were potentially saved” at the detention facility:
We are proud to serve a community that cares so deeply about all human life. Because of our officer’s selfless commitment to protect and serve, countless lives were potentially saved, including the lives of employees as well as detainees of the Northwest Detention facility. The brave acts of responding officers and the heroism displayed by them in the face of a life or death situation is honorable and courageous.
Cool also acknowledged that Van Spronsen “was also involved in a custodial dispute with his ex-wife.”
A woman claiming to be Van Spronsen’s daughter created an IndieGoGo page more than five years ago to raise funds for Van Spronsen’s legal defense against his then-wife, who accused him of domestic violence.
Cool said the police department’s investigation into the incident is ongoing.