TACOMA, Wash. — Friends are defending the man killed outside Tacoma's detention center even as they share a manifesto he sent hours before he died. In it, he seems to indicate he was willing to die for his cause.
Tacoma police say Willem Van Spronsen was armed with a rifle and incendiary devices that he was tossing at the Northwest Detention Center early Saturday morning.
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His friends say they received his manifesto Friday in which called the detention center "an abomination."
He goes on to say "to those burdened with the wreckage from my actions, I hope that you will make the best use of that burden."
This is how friends of Willem Van Spronsen chose to honor him at this rally that he likely would have attended were he still alive, outside the Northwest Detention Center that they say he despised. It isn't far from where he died in a hail of bullets from four Tacoma police officers.
"Yeah, they murdered him," said Deanne English. She says she knew Van Spronsen as a fellow activist for many causes. She says she last saw him outside the detention Center Friday night and gave him her customary hug. She said she had no hint of what would happen hours later.
"And he was probably just standing his ground," she said, "because that's what he does."
Did she think he wanted to die? "No," she said. "I think that he wanted to make a statement to stop this."
Friends say he did make a statement in this manifesto he sent to them Friday night. In it he says, "i regret that i will miss the rest of the revolution," he wrote, "doing what i can to help defend my precious and wondrous people is an experience too rich to describe. i am antifa."
More than a year ago, Van Spronsen was accused of attacking a police officer during an immigrants rally that turned violent outside the same detention center, some of it captured on cell phone video.
English says a judge banned him from coming to the detention center for one full year.
Tacoma police say they got the call at 4 a.m. Saturday that a lone man was outside the center armed with an assault rifle, flares and other incendiary devices. He allegedly tried first to set the center alight.
When that didn't work, he turned to vehicles parked nearby. A private vehicle caught fire and burned to the ground. Moments later, Van Spronsen was dead.
It has left his friends devastated.
"I'm broken," English said, her voice breaking. "It's so, it's real. You know it's been real since Trump got elected."
The four officers who shot Van Spronsen are on paid leave as is standard procedure. A Tacoma police spokeswoman says their names will likely be released after they are interviewed by investigators.
A vigil for Van Spronsen was held outside the detention center Sunday night.