Two people, including the shooter, were killed in a shooting on Thursday in central Auckland, New Zealand’s most populous city, on the opening day of the Women’s World Cup.
Six people, including police officers, were also injured in a shootout at a construction site in the morning.
Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said the 24-year-old shooter died at the scene and there was no threat to national security, assuring that police were “not looking for anyone else” in connection with the shooting.
Mr Hipkins offered his condolences to the families and friends of the victims and told them that “the whole country mourns with you”.
In front of more than 42,317 spectators, New Zealand signaled their first success at the World Cup, beating Norway (1-0) at the competition’s opener in Auckland on Thursday, a record figure for a football match in the archipelago. Before the start, a minute’s silence was observed in tribute to the victims of the shooting which took place a few kilometers away from the famous Eden Park stadium.
– “Warning signal” –
He also promised a thorough investigation to determine whether “warning signs could have been recognized earlier” to avoid the tragedy.
Police acknowledged that the attack was not directly linked to the major football tournament, nor was it motivated by political or ideological considerations.
However, the shooter was known to police and had a history of domestic violence and mental health problems.
According to police, he was ordered under house arrest, but was allowed to work at the site where the shooting took place.
He did not have a firearms license. and according to Police Commissioner Andrew Koster, “there was no indication that he posed a very high level of risk”.
The start of the World Cup should have brought Auckland and the country into the limelight. Instead, its residents awoke to the sound of police sirens and helicopters flying overhead.
Inside the construction site, workers may have hidden or barricaded themselves to avoid death.
“This is a shocking and painful event for anyone who has come to work and found themselves in the middle of an armed emergency,” said Commissioner Caster.
– “Terrific” –
Viv Beck, the head of a local trade union, who was drinking coffee nearby when the shootings took place, told AFP after the tragedy that the mood was “very sad”.
He praised the “unprecedented” speed of the police intervention, saying, “It’s tremendous. It must have been horrific.”
“Generally they did a good job,” Ms Beck added, “it was quite reassuring.”
According to Coster, police immediately found the shooter in an elevator shaft at the location where he had barricaded himself.
Koster said, “The offender fired at police, injuring an officer. A shootout ensued and the offender was found dead.”
“Sadly, the police found two dead people on the lower level of the construction site.”
One of the half dozen people admitted to the hospital is also a police officer. His condition is stable, officials said.
Before the start of the World Cup, Mr Coster reassured spectators and the general public that it was safe to travel to the city center and Eden Park stadium.
Officers responded to a “significant” number of shots fired and cordoned off the area, with police also deploying a helicopter.
National team staff and players, currently in Auckland to take part in the Women’s World Cup, have said they are traumatized but safe by the shooting hours before New Zealand’s opening match against Norway.
“New Zealand Football is shocked by the incident that happened in Auckland this morning,” said the Football Federation of New Zealand, confirming that the entire team and staff are “safe and sound”.
The Norwegian team hotel was where the shooting took place, but its members were not injured and “everything is calm in the team”, he said.
Captain Maren Mjelde said she was woken up by a helicopter and “a large number of emergency vehicles”.
“At first we didn’t know what was happening, but eventually local TV and media informed us,” he said in a statement.
Defending champion USA, which is based in Auckland for the tournament, also confirmed that “all its players and staff are present and safe”.
The Americans are looking for an unprecedented third consecutive world title and face a vulnerable Vietnam to open their competition in Auckland on Saturday.
Mass shootings are rare in New Zealand and comprehensive gun laws were introduced after the 2019 Christchurch mosque massacre that killed 51 Muslim worshipers and injured 40 others.