A man armed with a rifle attempted to attack a Tacoma, Washington, immigrant detention facility with incendiary devices early Saturday morning, before dying in a shootout with police, Yahoo News reports.
At about 4:00 a.m. on Saturday, according to police, a man approached the Northwest Detention Center — which is privately operated by The GEO Group, through a contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) — and began throwing incendiary devices at the building and at cars in the parking lot. By the time an employee realized what was happening, a car was on fire and the suspect was attempting to ignite a propane tank outside the facility.
When police arrived, the suspect opened fire. Police returned fire, and the unnamed suspect was shot dead. No police were injured in the shootout. All of the police officers involved in the incident have been placed on paid administrative leave, per Tacoma Police Department policy.
According to a police statement, the man was carrying a bag that had flares in it.
Washington Governor Jay Inslee called the incident “a horrific act of violence that has shaken us all.” Meanwhile, the man’s identity and motives remain unclear.
The treatment of immigrants at detention facilities has been under fire of late, with some describing inhumane conditions, such as lack of food and lack of clean water, at some facilities. Hours before the attack on the Northwest Detention Center, there had been a protest that police spokeswoman Loretta Cool described as “peaceful.” Another protest had been scheduled for Saturday, but since the Northwest Detention Facility was an active crime scene, that protest had to be moved.
The Tacoma Police Department said the officers responded at about 4 a.m. to the privately run Tacoma Northwest Detention Center, a U.S. Department of Homeland Security detention facility that holds migrants pending deportation proceedingshttps://t.co/cqJVTwqRUv— Las Vegas RJ (@reviewjournal) July 14, 2019
In this particular case, however, the man’s motive remains unclear. A spokesperson for The GEO Group said in a statement that the allegations about inhumane conditions at immigration detention facilities played a role in the attack.
“The outrageous and baseless accusations that have been leveled against our facilities have led to misplaced aggression and a dangerous environment for our employees, whose safety is our top priority.”
The spokesperson went on to say that none of the allegations about inhumane conditions at immigrant detention facilities apply to those run by The GEO Group. The spokesperson said that all of its facilities are modern and that no unaccompanied minors are kept there.
As for the suspect, he remains unidentified, and an autopsy is scheduled for the coming days. Authorities hope to be able to identify him by Monday.