The 69-year-old man who stormed an immigration detention center in an apparent effort to disrupt operations over the weekend thanked his “trans comrades” for “bringing me so far along” in a statement published after he was shot and killed by police.
Willem Van Spronsen of Vashon Island, Washington, journeyed to the Tacoma Northwest Detention Center early Saturday morning armed with a semi-automatic rifle, incendiary devices, and flares, the Associated Press reports. The center, a privately run Department of Homeland Security detention facility, holds migrants while they await deportation proceedings, including parents separated from their children at the U.S.-Mexico border under President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy.
Police say that Van Spronsen opened fire on the facility, causing a vehicle to catch fire. Tacoma Police spokeswoman Loretta Cool told the AP that four officers arrived on the scene and called on to Van Spronsen. She says that he began shooting his weapon, and that the four officers did too, killing Van Spronsen. There were no other deaths reported. A posthumous statement from Van Spronsen himself, published by It’s Going Down on Sunday, clarifies his position and what motivated him to do so.
“It’s time to take action against the forces of evil,” he writes. “I’m a black and white thinker. Detention camps are an abomination. I’m not standing by. I really shouldn’t have to say any more than this.”
Born less than a decade after the Holocaust, Van Spronsen says that he grew up learning about the rise of fascism in Europe that led to the deaths of millions of Jews, Roma, queer people, people with disabilities, and other marginalized people. “I promised myself that I would not be one of those who stands by as neighbors are torn from their homes and imprisoned for somehow being perceived as lesser,” he writes, drawing parallels between Nazi Germany and the ICE raids, deportations of undocumented people, migrant detentions, family separation, and other violence committed by the United States government in the name of upholding the legitimacy of its borders.
“This is the test of our fundamental belief in real freedom and our responsibility to each other,” Van Spronsen writes. “You don’t have to burn the motherfucker down, but are you going to just stand by?”
Toward the end of his statement, Van Spronsen thanks his “trans comrades” for “solidifying my conviction that we will be guided to a dreamed-of future by those most marginalized among us today.
“I have dreamed it so clearly that I have no regret for not seeing how it turns out,” he writes. “Thank you for bringing me so far along.”