The police fatally shot a man who was attacking an immigration detention center in Tacoma, Wash., on Saturday morning, the authorities said.
The man, who was armed with a rifle, was throwing unspecified “incendiary devices” at the Northwest Detention Center, according to a police statement. The man, identified by officials on Saturday afternoon as Willem Van Spronsen, 69, of Vashon Island, Wash., continued throwing lit objects at buildings and cars, the statement said.
“One car was fully engulfed in flames,” said Officer Loretta Cool, a spokeswoman for the Tacoma Police Department. “He was also trying to ignite a big propane tank but he was not successful.”
Officers arrived around 4 a.m. and called out to Mr. Van Spronsen, who was wearing a satchel and had flares, the statement said. Shots were fired that resulted in his death, though Officer Cool could not say whether he had opened fire.
Mr. Van Spronsen was declared dead at the scene. No officers were injured.
A motive for the attack was not known but it happened as the issue of immigration has reached a flash point in the United States.
The episode happened the morning after Vice President Mike Pence visited migrant detention centers in Texas, and thousands attended “Lights for Liberty” demonstrations. More than 700 were planned in hundreds of cities around the country, including at the Tacoma center. The episode happened one day before ICE is scheduled to arrest thousands of members of undocumented families.
GEO Group has run the Tacoma center under a contract with United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement since 2005. It is the fourth-largest immigration detention center in the country, with a capacity to hold 1,575 people, according to the city government.
Tanya Roman, a spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said no ICE employees were harmed or involved. It was not immediately known how many detainees were in the center.
Michael Melendez, acting field office director for Seattle Enforcement and Removal Operations at ICE, thanked the police for their response, adding, “This incident could have resulted in the loss of many more lives, were it not for the brave actions of all the officers involved.”
The four officers were placed on paid administrative leave in keeping with department policy, the police said.
Officer Cool said the police were working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security. The Seattle Division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said on Twitter it was also helping in the investigation.