A gunman has shot dead two people in the city centre of Auckland just hours before the start of the FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Auckland Police said the serious incident that occurred at a construction site has been contained.
Six people were reported with injuries, including one policeman who was critically injured and four members of the public.
The police officer was transported to hospital, where his condition has stabilised. The four members of the public sustained injuries ranging from moderate to critical, the police said.
The gunman is also confirmed to be deceased.
Police received reports of a person firing shots at around 7:22 a.m. local time.
“Upon reaching the upper levels of the building, the male has contained himself within the elevator shaft, and our staff have attempted to engage with him,” Acting Superintendent Sunny Patel said.
“Further shots were fired from the male, and he was located deceased a short time later.”
Police advise that the incident was not a national security risk.
“What has unfolded is understandably alarming, and we are reassuring the public that this incident has been contained and is an isolated incident,” they said.
Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said there would be no change to New Zealand’s security threat level.
He said the gunman was armed with a “pump action shotgun” and moved through the building as he fired.
“I want to thank the brave men and women of the New Zealand Police,” Mr. Hipkins said.
“Police who ran into fire from the gunman straight into harm’s way in order to save the lives of others.
“These kinds of situations move fast, and the actions of those who risk their lives to save others are nothing short of heroic.”
He also acknowledged the ambulance first responders who were quickly at the scene.
No political or ideological motivation behind the attack was identified.
The gunman was reportedly a 24-year-old man who was serving a five month home detention sentence for domestic violence, according to New Zealand media.
‘Massive Gunshots’ Fired
One witness identified by only is first name, Mick, told local media that he was on level three of the building when the shooting began.
“He came up through the main entrance onto level three and started to shoot, we’d got into work about five minutes earlier and we were just planning our day in the office,” he told 1News’s Breakfast.
“We just heard a massive gunshot, and then one of the guys walked outside the office and came running back in, and he said, ‘Someone’s got a gun outside.’”
Mick said they barricaded the office and hid under the desks.
“Sitting underneath that desk hearing gunshots really drove that in,” he said.
While running to the back of the building, Mick said he saw a “bloody hard hat.”
“Everyone from our team is happy to be out, no one from our team is hurt,” he said.
“I feel sorry for whoever that hard hat belonged to.”
Workers wait for the end of the police work amid reports of a shooting in Auckland, New Zealand, on July 20, 2023. (Buda Mendes/Getty Images) A police officer cordons off an area near the site of a shooting in central Auckland, New Zealand, on July 20, 2023. (Saeed Khan/AFP via Getty Images)
World Cup to Go Ahead
The incident will not affect the FIFA Women’s World Cup, which is scheduled to kick off this evening with New Zealand facing Norway.
“The government has spoken to FIFA organisers this morning, and the tournament will proceed as planned,” Mr. Hipkins confirmed.
“The risk has been contained, New Zealand is welcoming people here. We are excited about hosting the FIFA World Cup.
“Obviously, this has been a very grim morning for us, but we are committed to hosting this tournament, there is no ongoing risk here, the police have not identified any ongoing risk.”
However, the opening of the FIFA Fan Festival has been delayed, with details yet to be confirmed.
New Zealand Football said they were shocked at the incident and confirmed that all the Football Ferns team and staff were safe.
“Preparations for the game tonight at Eden Park will continue as planned,” they wrote on Twitter.
U.S. Soccer said in a statement their thoughts were with the people of Auckland and New Zealand.
“U.S. Soccer extends its deepest condolences to the families of the victims who were killed today in the shooting in downtown Auckland today,” they said.
Public transport is being redirected to avoid the area of the incident, and the travellers are being asked to allow extra travel time and expect delays.