At least two people were killed and five others injured after a gunman stormed a building under construction in Auckland, New Zealand, at dawn Thursday, hours before the first soccer match of the Women’s World Cup kicked off in the city.
Police said in a press conference Thursday afternoon that the gunman was later killed. They also said that a police officer was among those injured; He was Transfer to the hospital He is in critical condition and has stabilized.
Authorities did not identify the gunman, but police said he was believed to be 24 years old and was working on the construction site where the shooting took place.
Police Commissioner Andrew Koster said he believed the gunman’s motive was “related to his work on the site”. He was under a home arrest order but had permission to be on the construction site. He was known to police because he had a history of domestic violence, Koster said, adding that there were also “some indications of a mental health history.”
Authorities said he did not have a firearms license for the gun he used.
The New Zealand Herald also reported He appeared in a local court in March with charges including assaulting and injuring a woman with intent to injure, and being ordered to wear an electronic ankle monitor bracelet.
The shooting occurred while teams from New Zealand and Norway were scheduled to play at 7pm local time at Eden Park, about three miles from the site of the shooting. Several World Cup teams and many fans are staying in Auckland’s central business district, and the shooting took place near the Norway team’s hotel and near the fan fest scheduled for the tournament.
The USA team, which will play its first game of the tournament in Auckland against Vietnam in two days, is also based in the area. Teams from Norway and the United States said their players and staff were safe and that their preparations would take place as normal.
New Zealand’s game against Norway on Thursday night began on a somber note: a moment of silence for the shooting victims. Players from both teams gathered in midfield, and the reserves and the New Zealand coach left their dugouts to stand on the touchline in solidarity.
FIFA said in a statement that a minute’s silence would also be observed at the match between Australia and Ireland on Thursday night.
New Zealand Police began receiving reports of a person firing a gun inside the construction site at around 7:22am local time, Mr Koster said.
Police said that after an armed man entered the high-rise building – which was occupied by dozens of construction workers – at the bottom of Queen Street, he opened fire on the third floor and forced his way through the 21-storey building, firing as he went.
Gunshots were heard by passers-by and passengers during the morning rush hour. Armed police officers and vehicles were deployed in the area and the authorities sealed off parts of the city.
The shooting took place in a busy downtown area crammed with office buildings and hotels across the street from a ferry terminal on the city’s waterfront.
New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hepkins told a news conference that the shooter was armed with an automatic rifle and appeared to have acted alone.
Within minutes, dozens of police officers with automatic weapons descended on the site, warning people to take cover and removing them from the area. Streets were closed off in a two-block area and a police helicopter hovered overhead. The officers pursued the gunman to the upper floors, and once there, a gunfight – heard in the street below the tower – ensued.
Police said that the police confronted the gunman in an elevator shaft, where he was holed up, and attempted to deal with him.
“The perpetrator fired at the police, wounding an officer,” the police said. Shots were exchanged and the perpetrator was later found dead.
Mr. Koster said he was not sure if the gunman was killed by the police.
The construction workers, many of whom hid in the building during the shooting, were released hours later, and the building was cleared by police.
Mr Hepkins said the Women’s World Cup would go ahead as planned. said senior leaders of FIFA, football’s global governing body and organizer of the tournament have reached out with the New Zealand authorities and that the organization has been “in constant contact with the participating teams affected by this incident”.
In a second press conference on Thursday afternoon, he said the authorities would conduct a review of the suspect’s handling while he was in home confinement, and whether there were any red flags about his behaviour.
Asked if the attack showed a failure of New Zealand’s strict gun laws, he said authorities needed to investigate how the gunman obtained the firearm “before we make any judgment as to how strict our gun laws are or otherwise”.
The Norway players were all in their hotel during the shooting; Some were still asleep, but local news reports stated that a few went down to breakfast in the dining room off the ground floor foyer. As police moved to close off access to the area around the shooting, members of the Norwegian delegation were asked by security guards to stay inside the hotel, according to Lise Klavenice, president of the Norwegian Football Association.
“All is calm in the Norwegian team,” Halvor Lea, a spokesman for the Norway women’s team, said in a statement. “Preparations are going on as usual.”
In another statement, Norway captain Maren Mjelde said many players were likely awakened by the sound of a helicopter outside and emergency vehicles arriving ahead.
“We felt safe the whole time,” she said.
It was New Zealand’s first major shooting since the country banned most semi-automatic rifles in 2019, after 51 people were killed when a white supremacist opened fire on Muslims praying at two mosques in Christchurch.
Days after this shooting, Jacinda Ardern, the prime minister at the time, announced a temporary ban on most semi-automatic weapons, and began a month-long gun amnesty and buyback program. Later that year, a nationwide ban went into effect.
Even before this, gun ownership was relatively rare in New Zealand, and gun violence is considered unusual. But in 1997, six people were killed and four others injured in the northern town of Rauremo.
And in 1990, he was armed in the small coastal town of Aramoana 13 people were killed and three others were wounded before being shot dead by the police. The shooting led to a 1992 amendment to regulations regarding military semi-automatic weapons.
Juliet McCorm And Andrew Dass Reported from Auckland, New Zealand, and Yan Chuang From Sydney, Australia. Tariq Benga Contributed reporting from Sydney, Australia.