A multiple shooting incident in Auckland’s heart just before the Women’s World Cup’s inauguration has left security authorities on high alert as large crowds assemble in the city to witness New Zealand face Norway in the tournament’s initial match.
New Zealand’s Prime Minister Chris Hipkins hurriedly convened a press briefing to disclose the attack specifics, verifying that three individuals had lost their lives – the shooter included – and several others were harmed.
Following reports of a man wielding a pump action shotgun opening fire at a construction site, emergency crews swiftly arrived at the city’s central business district shortly after 7 a.m. local time on Thursday, he stated.
“He moved through the building site discharging the firearm as he went,” Hipkins reported. “Upon reaching the upper levels of the building, the man contained himself in an elevator. Shots were fired, and he was located a short time later.”
The police officers who “ran into the gunfire, straight into harm’s way in order to save the lives of others” demonstrated actions that were “nothing short of heroic,” according to Hipkins.
Andrew Coster, New Zealand Police Commissioner, reported that one officer was wounded in his attempt to confront the shooter, and four civilians sustained injuries ranging from “moderate to critical.”
Coster stated the suspect was on home detention but had been granted permission to work at the construction site where the gunfire occurred, and the incident is thought to be work-related.
The man possessed a “family violence history,” but there was “nothing to suggest that he has presented a high level risk,” according to Coster. The man did not hold a firearm license, Coster further added.
The shooting doesn’t pose a national security threat, New Zealand Police confirmed, assuring that the Women’s World Cup’s opening ceremony and the first match would proceed as scheduled.
Shootings in New Zealand are quite uncommon, particularly after implementing stringent gun laws in 2019, post a mass shooting in Christchurch that took 50 lives.
Auckland’s Mayor Wayne Brown, speaking to RNZ, New Zealand’s public radio, described the shooting as a “dreadful thing to happen in our city at a time when the rest of the world’s watching us over the football.”
New Zealand is scheduled to play Norway at Eden Park in the opening match on Thursday, an event that is one of the largest in global sports, co-hosted by New Zealand and Australia.
A welcoming event by Tourism New Zealand was called off because its location is within the police-cordoned zone where the shooting is being investigated.
21-year old Seth Kruger, originally from South Africa, and stationed a block away from the ferry pier at the cordon edge on Quay Street, expressed his shock at the incident.
“I reckon it’s a pretty rare occurrence for New Zealand, he shared. “Moving here, you move here for safety reasons. So pretty weird for this to be happening just down the road from home as well.”
Kruger and his associate David Aguillon were supposed to work at The Cloud, a versatile event venue at the Queen’s Wharf on Auckland’s waterfront, which is the venue for the FIFA Fan Festival during the World Cup.
But due to police cordoning off several significant streets, Aguillon mentioned they hadn’t been able to access the site, and it remained uncertain whether the Fan Festival would open in time for Monday’s opening game.
US Soccer extended its “deepest condolences to the families of the victims who were killed in downtown Auckland today,” in a statement.
New Zealand Football expressed its shock at the incident in a statement.
“We can confirm that all of the Football Ferns team and staff are safe but we will not be able to comment further while details are still emerging,” the statement noted. “Preparations for the game tonight at Eden Park will continue as planned.”