At least two people were killed and five others injured after a gunman attacked a building under construction in Auckland, New Zealand, early Thursday, hours before the first soccer match of the Women’s World Cup was scheduled to begin in the city.
The gunman was later killed, police said at a news conference Thursday afternoon. They also said that among the wounded was a policeman; he is brought to the hospital was in critical condition, and his condition was stable.
Authorities have not identified the gunman, but police said he is believed to be 24 years old and worked at the construction site where the shooting happened.
Police commissioner Andrew Coster said the gunman’s motive was believed to be “connected to his work at the site.” He is under a home detention order but has permission to go to the construction site. Police identified him because he had a history of domestic violence, Mr. Coster said, adding that there were also “some indications of a history of mental health.”
He did not have a firearms license for the shotgun he used, authorities said.
The New Zealand Herald also reported that he appeared in a local court in March on charges including assaulting a woman and assault with intent to injure, and was ordered to wear an electronic monitoring ankle bracelet.
The shooting occurred as teams from New Zealand and Norway were scheduled to play at 7 pm local time at Eden Park Stadium, about three miles from the site of the shooting. Many World Cup teams and many fans stay in Auckland’s central business district, and the shooting took place near Norway’s team hotel and near a fan festival set for the tournament.
The United States team, which will play the first game of the tournament in Auckland against Vietnam in two days, also remains in place. Teams from Norway and the US said their players and staff were safe and their preparations would continue as usual.
New Zealand’s match against Norway on Thursday night began on a somber note: a moment of silence for the victims of the shooting. Players from both teams gathered at midfield, and New Zealand’s reserves and coaching staff left their dugout to stand on the touchline in solidarity.
A minute’s silence will also be observed at the match between Australia and Ireland on Thursday night, FIFA said in a statement.
New Zealand Police began receiving reports of someone firing a gun inside the construction site at about 7:22 a.m. local time, Mr. Coster.
Police said after a gunman entered the high-rise — occupied by dozens of construction workers — on lower Queen Street, he opened fire on the third floor, and through the 21-story building, as he fired.
Passersby and commuters heard the gunshots during rush hour. Armed police and vehicles swarmed the area, and authorities sealed off parts of the city.
The shooting took place in a busy downtown area lined with office buildings and hotels across from a ferry terminal on the city’s waterfront.
New Zealand’s prime minister, Chris Hipkins, told a news conference that the shooter was armed with a pump-action shotgun and that he appeared to have acted alone.
Within minutes, scores of police armed with automatic weapons descended on the site, warning people to take cover and ushering them out of the area. Streets were closed in a two-block area, and a police helicopter passed overhead. Officers chased the gunman up to the top floor, and, once there, an exchange of gunfire – which could be heard on the street below the tower – ensued.
Police confronted the gunman in the elevator shaft where he had barricaded himself, and tried to make contact with him, police said.
“The offender opened fire on the police, injuring an officer,” the police said. “Shots were exchanged, and the offender was found dead.”
Mr. Coster said he was not sure if the gunman was killed by the police.
Construction workers, many of whom hid in the building during the shooting, were freed hours later, and police cleared the building.
Mr. Hipkins said the Women’s World Cup would go ahead as planned. FIFA, soccer’s world governing body and the organizer of the tournament, said its top leaders was discussed to the New Zealand authorities and that the organization has “communicated with participating teams affected by this incident.”
In a second news conference Thursday afternoon, he said authorities would conduct a review of the suspect’s handling while he was in home detention, and whether there were any red flags about his behavior.
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 gun “before we make any judgments on the stability or otherwise of our gun laws.”
The Norwegian players were in their hotel during the shooting; some were still asleep, but local news reports said some had gone down to breakfast in a dining room just off the ground-floor lobby. As police moved to close off the area around the shooting, security guards asked members of the Norwegian delegation to stay inside the hotel, according to Lise Klaveness, the president of Norway’s soccer federation.
“Everything is calm in the Norwegian squad,” Halvor Lea, a spokesman for Norway’s women’s team, said in a statement. “Preparations are going on as normal.”
In another statement, Maren Mjelde, the captain of the Norwegian team, said that many players must have woken up to the sound of a helicopter outside and the emergency vehicles that arrived in front.
“We felt safe the whole time,” he said.
It was the first mass shooting in New Zealand since the country banned most semiautomatic rifles in 2019, after 51 people were killed when a white supremacist opened fire on Muslims praying at two mosques in Christchurch.
Days after that shooting, Jacinda Ardern, the prime minister at the time, announced a temporary ban on most semiautomatic weapons, and a month-long gun buyback and amnesty program began. Later that year, a nationwide ban went into effect.
Even before then, gun ownership was relatively rare in New Zealand, and gun violence was considered uncommon. But in 1997, six people died and four others were injured in the North Island town of Raurimu.
And in 1990, a gunman in the small seaside township of Aramoana killed 13 people and injured three others before the police shoot him. The shootings led to a 1992 amendment to regulations on military-style semiautomatic weapons.
Juliet Macur and Andrew Das reported from Auckland, New Zealand, and Yan Zhuang from Sydney, Australia. Tariq Panja contributed reporting from Sydney, Australia.