Sunday, a 69-year-old man in Tacoma, Washington, was shot and killed by police after throwing an incendiary device at an immigration center, while armed with a rifle, according to the Associated Press. The incident happened nearly six hours after the conclusion of a peaceful protest.

Willem Van Spronsen, of Vashon Island, has since been identified as the 69-year-old man. Those who knew him told media outlets he was a committed anarchist and anti-fascist. The Seattle Times spoke with a friend of Van Spronsen, Deb Brantley, who said she believed he wanted to provoke a fight, and he had written letters with manifestos.

“I think this was a suicide. But then, he was able to kind of do it in a way that spoke to his political beliefs," Brantley said. "I know he went down there knowing he was going to die.”

Van Spronsen's death was confirmed on the scene by officers after all corpus responding officers fired their weapons. Officers say they were responding to a call of a man who had set a vehicle on fire using explosives.

The Tacoma Northwest Detention Centre, which was his target, has long served as a holding facility for migrants as they are about to be deported. Recently, it has housed parents separated from their children after President Trump's zero-tolerance policy went into effect.

The protest came as Trump had vowed to have many immigrants deported in massive nationwide raids, which failed to materialize over the weekend. According to ICE Acting Director Matthew Albence, the increased public attention could be a reason he feared his officers would be at risk if the raids were carried out.

"There’s not anything I’m going to say that would jeopardize my officers,” Albence said to The Washington Post. “Operationally, we’ll never divulge details that would put our officers at any more risk than they already face in this toxic environment."

Van Spronsen has been seen as a martyr by some of those on the left with activist and journalist Shaun King tweeting, "Willem Van Spronsen just became the first martyr attempting to liberate imprisoned refugees from a for-profit detention center in Tacoma, Washington. His hero was John Brown -the white abolitionist who led the raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859. This is what our country has come to." 

It was not Van Spronsen's first run-in with law enforcement at the center, according to the Tacoma News Tribune. In 2018, he was reportedly among ten people arrested on suspicion of third-degree assault, for jumping on the back of an officer as he attempted to apprehend another activist after they occupied the perimeter of the site.