Auckland, July 20 (BNA): At least two people and an armed attacker were killed and five others were wounded in a shooting in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, today, Thursday, hours before the opening match of the Women’s World Cup kicks off in the city.
Premier Chris Hepkins said the football tournament would go ahead as planned, adding that the shooting appeared to be the act of an individual and that police were not looking for anyone else in connection with the incident, Reuters reported.
“There was no specific political or ideological motive for the shooting, and therefore no national security risk,” Hipkins said during a televised media briefing.
He said there would be no change in the security threat level for New Zealand although there would be an increased police presence in the city.
Auckland welcomed thousands of international players and tourists to the ninth Women’s World Cup tournament to be hosted by Australia and New Zealand.
“Obviously we’d prefer it not start that way,” Hipkins told reporters later in the day.
“What happened today will be acknowledged at the opening ceremony. And I will go, it is safe to go and we continue to encourage the whole community to get behind this,” he said.
The gunman has not been officially identified, but it is believed to be a 24-year-old man who was working on the construction site where the shooting took place, Police Commissioner Andrew Koster told a news conference.
He was armed with an automatic shot gun and moved into a firing position at a construction site. After reaching the upper levels, he trapped himself inside an elevator shaft and fired more shots before he was found dead shortly afterwards.
An officer was wounded in the shooting, as well as four members of the public.
The gunman was subject to house arrest but was exempt from working on the site.
“The individual is primarily known with a history of domestic violence. There is no indication that it presents a higher level of risk than indicated by that history,” Koster said.
Soccer teams from New Zealand, Norway, Italy, the United States, Vietnam and Portugal were known to be in the city when the shooting took place.
“FIFA has been informed that this is an isolated incident unrelated to football operations and tonight’s opening match at Eden Park will continue as planned,” FIFA said in a statement to Reuters.
“The teams involved are being supported very close to this incident with respect to any impact that may have occurred.”
In Thursday’s opening World Cup matches, Norway play New Zealand in Auckland while Australia faces Ireland in Sydney.
There was a moment of silence before the game kicked off in Auckland, and the players wore black arm bands in honor of those who died in the shooting.
The shooting took place near the Norwegian team’s hotel in downtown Auckland, and several players took to social media to report their safety.
“Everything seems calm, and we are preparing as usual for the game tonight,” Norway captain Maren Milde told the Norwegian newspaper Verdnes Gang during the police operation.
The training of the Italian and American national teams was delayed as the players were unable to leave the hotel.
The US Embassy said Douglas Imhoff, husband of US Vice President Kamala Harris who is leading the presidential delegation to New Zealand for the World Cup opening ceremony, is safe.
A NFL spokesperson said the American players were just getting up for breakfast at the hotel when the incident occurred.
“Our security kind of immediately contacted local authorities and the State Department. We decided right away that everyone was fine and accountable and from then on we had to wait for it to be over,” Aaron Heifetz told reporters.
US attacker Lynn Williams said she and her co-stars had dealt with the incident “too many times” in the United States, where gun violence is common.
“There was definitely a feeling of, ‘Let’s get it together,’” Williams said. “We still have work to do. But also acknowledging that lives have been lost is very real and devastating.”
Several streets in Auckland were cordoned off, all ferry services to the city were cancelled, and buses were required to detour around some areas of the city.
“At first I was kind of worried, but when I saw how everywhere the police were, it was very reassuring,” said Maurane Mefort-Paun, an 18-year-old French tourist.
Oakland Mayor Wayne Brown said the shooting had nothing to do with the World Cup.
Gun violence is rare in New Zealand, which tightened its gun laws after a gunman killed 51 Muslim worshipers in Christchurch in 2019 in the country’s worst peacetime mass shooting.
The government banned all military semi-automatic weapons and other lethal weapons.
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