Man killed at Tacoma immigrant detention center jumped on cop in 2018 protest

The man who was shot and killed by Tacoma police while allegedly staging an attack at a Tacoma immigrant detention center has been identified.

The Pierce County Medical Examiner’s Office identified the man killed at the Northwest Detention Center as Willem Van Spronsen, 69, of Vashon Island.

Police were called to the center at 4 a.m. Saturday after an employee at the facility spotted a man with a rifle. The center holds migrants waiting for hearings and deportations.

Van Spronsen was allegedly throwing incendiary devices at cars and buildings, tried to explode a propane tank on the site and exchanged gunfire with police.

Police later located Van Spronsen. He had died on the scene.

The medical examiner’s office said Van Spronsen died from multiple gunshot wounds.

Van Spronsen was accused of assaulting a police officer during a protest outside the detention center last year.

Charging papers said 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.

Police managed to handcuff Van Spronsen, and found that he had a collapsible baton and a folding knife in his pocket, the charging papers say.

Another man was also accused of assaulting an officer.

There were about 160 people at the protest. Police said 10 were arrested.

Van Spronsen pleaded guilty to the charge of obstructing police, and was given a deferred sentence in October.

That meant he didn’t have to serve time if he avoided further trouble with the law.

Prosecutors told the court at the time that the officer had not been injured, and that Van Spronsen had no known criminal history.

Craig Sailor has worked for The News Tribune for 20 years as a reporter, editor and photographer. He previously worked at The Olympian and at other newspapers in Nevada and California.
Alexis Krell covers local, state and federal court cases that affect Pierce County. She started covering courts in 2016. Before that she wrote about crime and breaking news for almost four years as The News Tribune’s night reporter.