At least two people were killed and five others injured when gunmen stormed a building under construction early Thursday morning hours before the first match of the Women’s World Cup soccer match was scheduled to begin in Auckland, New Zealand.
At a press conference Thursday afternoon, police said the shooter later died. A police officer was also among the injured, he said.he was was taken to the hospital He was in critical condition, but his condition was stable.
Authorities have not identified the shooter, but police said the man was 24 and believed to have worked at the construction site where the shooting took place.
Chief of Police Andrew Koster said the shooter’s motive was believed to be “work-related in the field.” He had a home detention order, but had permission to stand on the construction site. Koster said he was known to police because of his history of domestic violence, adding that he also had “signs of a mental health history.”
Authorities said he did not have a firearms license for the shotgun he used.
The New Zealand Herald also reported He appeared in district court in March on charges including assault on a woman and bodily injury with intent to injure him, and said he had been ordered to wear an electronic monitoring ankle bracelet.
The shooting occurred as teams from New Zealand and Norway were scheduled to play at Eden Park Stadium, about three miles from the shooting site, at 7pm local time. With several World Cup teams and many fans staying in Auckland’s central business district, the shooting occurred very close to the Norwegian team hotel and near a fan festival set up for the tournament.
The U.S. team, who will open the tournament against Vietnam in Oakland two days later, will also be in the area. The Norwegian and U.S. teams said their players and staff were safe and that preparations would proceed as normal.
Thursday night’s match between New Zealand and Norway began with a sombre atmosphere of silence for the victims of the shooting. Players from both teams gathered in midfield, and the New Zealand reserves and coaching staff came out of the dugout to unite on the touchline.
FIFA said in a statement that a minute’s silence would also be observed for Thursday night’s match between Australia and Ireland.
Koster said New Zealand police began receiving calls about someone firing a gun inside the construction site at around 7:22 a.m. local time.
Police said an armed man broke into a high-rise building on lower Queen Street, occupied by dozens of construction workers, then opened fire from the third floor and shot through the 21-story building.
Gunshots were heard by passers-by and commuters during the morning rush hour. Armed police and vehicles swarmed the area, and authorities blocked parts of the city.
The shooting took place in a busy downtown area of office buildings and hotels across from the ferry terminal on the city’s waterfront.
New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins told a news conference that the shooter was armed with a pump-action shotgun and was believed to have acted alone.
Within minutes, dozens of police officers with automatic weapons were on the scene, warning people to evacuate, and forcing them to leave the area. A two-block area was blocked and police helicopters hovered above. Officers pursued the shooter to the upper floors, where a gunfight ensued (heard even into the street below the tower) upon arrival.
Police said they confronted and attempted to engage the shooter inside an elevator shaft where the shooter was barricaded.
“The criminal opened fire on the police and injured a police officer,” the police said in a statement. “A shootout took place and the perpetrator was later found dead.”
Koster said he wasn’t sure the shooter was killed by police.
Many of the construction workers hid inside the building during the shooting, but were released hours later and police razed the building.
Hipkins said the Women’s World Cup will go ahead as planned. The top leaders of FIFA, football’s global governing body and organizer of the tournament, said: was communicating It contacted New Zealand authorities and said the organization was “in constant contact with participating teams affected by this incident”.
At a second press conference on Thursday afternoon, he said authorities would investigate whether there were any red flags in the suspect’s handling and behavior during home detention.
Asked whether the attack demonstrated a failure to comply with New Zealand’s strict gun laws, he said authorities needed to investigate how the gunmen obtained the guns “before making judgments about how stringent gun laws are”.
The Norwegian players were all in hotels during the shooting. Some were still asleep, but local news reports said some had come to breakfast in the dining room just off the first-floor lobby. Security guards asked members of the Norwegian delegation to remain in the hotel as police blocked access to the area around the shooting site, said Norwegian Football Federation president Lise Klavenes.
“Everything is calm for the Norwegian national team,” said Norwegian women’s spokesman Harvor Lee in a statement. “Preparations are proceeding as usual,” she said.
Norwegian team captain Maren Mijelde said in a separate statement that many players were likely awakened by the sound of helicopters outside and emergency vehicles arriving from ahead.
“We felt safe the whole time,” she said.
It was the first mass shooting in New Zealand since the country banned most semi-automatic weapons in 2019, after white supremacists opened fire on Muslims praying at two mosques in Christchurch, killing 51 people.
Days after the shooting, then-Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced a moratorium on most semi-automatic weapons, beginning a months-long program of buyouts and amnesties. Later that year, a sweeping nationwide ban went into effect.
Even before that, gun ownership was relatively rare in New Zealand and gun violence was considered rare. But in 1997, six people were killed and four injured in the North Island town of Raurim.
Then in 1990, a shooter in the small seaside town of Ala Moana 13 killed, 3 injured before he was shot dead by the police. The shooting led to the 1992 revision of the military semi-automatic rifle regulations.
Juliet McCool and Andrew Das Reported from Auckland, New Zealand. Yang Chuan Originally from Sydney, Australia. Tarik Panja Contributed to a report from Sydney, Australia.