Women’s World Cup Begins With Host Nations in Opening Games

At least two people were killed and five others injured after a gunman stormed a building under construction with a shotgun 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, the police said at a news conference on Thursday afternoon. They also said that a police officer was among those injured and he was taken to a hospital in critical condition, but that his condition had stabilized.

The authorities have not formally identified the gunman, but the police said he was believed to have been 24 years old and had worked at the construction site where the shooting occurred.

The police commissioner, Andrew Coster, said that the gunman’s motive was believed to have been “connected to his work at the site.” He was under a home detention order but had permission to be at the construction site. He was known to police because he had a domestic violence history, Mr. Coster said, adding that there had also been “some indications of mental health history.”

He did not possess a firearms license for the shotgun he used, the authorities said.

The New Zealand Herald also reported that he appeared before a local court in March on charges including assaulting a woman and injuring with intent to injure, and had been ordered to wear an electronic monitoring ankle bracelet.

Police officers standing guard near a construction site following a shooting at that location in Auckland, New Zealand, on Thursday.Credit…David Rowland/Reuters

The shooting occurred as teams from New Zealand and Norway were set to play at 7 p.m. local time at Eden Park Stadium, about three miles from the site of the shooting. Several World Cup teams and many fans are staying in Auckland’s central business district, and the shooting occurred very close to Norway’s team hotel and near a fan festival set up for the tournament.

The United States team, which will play its first game of the tournament in Auckland against Vietnam in two days, is also staying in the area.

“Regarding the incident in downtown Auckland, all of our USWNT players and staff are accounted for and safe,” U.S. Soccer said in a statement, referring to the United States women’s national team. “Our security team is in communication with local authorities and we are proceeding with our daily schedule.”

The New Zealand Police began receiving reports of a person firing a gun inside the construction site about 7:22 a.m. local time, Mr. Coster said.

The police said after an armed man entered the high-rise building — which was occupied by dozens of construction workers — on lower Queen Street, he opened fire on the third floor, and made his way through the 21-story building, shooting as he went.

Passers-by and commuters heard the volley of gunshots during the morning rush hour. Armed police officers and vehicles swarmed the area, and the authorities shut down parts of the city.

The shooting took place in a busy downtown area crowded with office buildings and hotels across the street from a ferry terminal on the city’s waterfront.

New Zealand’s prime minister, Chris Hipkins, said at a news conference that the shooter had been armed with a pump-action shotgun and that it appeared he had acted alone.

Members of the Philippines Women’s World Cup team in Auckland on Thursday. New Zealand’s prime minister, Chris Hipkins, said the Women’s World Cup would proceed as planned.Credit…Abbie Parr/Associated Press

Within minutes, scores of police officers carrying 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 hovered overhead. Officers pursued the gunman to the upper floors, and once there, an exchange of gunfire — audible on the street below the tower — ensued.

The police confronted the gunman in an elevator shaft where he had barricaded himself, and tried to engage with him, the police said.

“The offender fired at police, injuring an officer,” the police said. “Shots were exchanged, and the offender was later found deceased.”

Mr. Coster said he was unsure if the gunman had been killed by the police.

Mr. Hipkins said the gunman had made his way toward the elevator, and that was where his body was later found.

Construction workers, many of whom hid in the building during the shooting, were released hours later, and the police cleared the building.

Mr. Hipkins said the Women’s World Cup would proceed as planned. FIFA, soccer’s global governing body and the organizer of the tournament, said its top leaders had communicated with the New Zealand authorities and that the organization was “in constant contact with the participating teams affected by this incident.”

The mayor of Auckland, Wayne Brown, said in a post on Twitter: “This is a scary situation for Aucklanders on their Thursday morning commute to work. Please stay at home, avoid travel into the city centre.”

Police officers cordoning off an area near the site of the shooting in central Auckland on Thursday.Credit…Saeed Khan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Norway’s players were all in their hotel during the shooting; some were still asleep, but local news reports said a few had come down for breakfast in a dining room just off the ground floor lobby. As the police moved to close off access to the area around the shooting, security guards asked members of the Norway delegation to stay inside the hotel, according to the president of Norway’s soccer federation, Lise Klaveness.

“Everything is calm in the Norwegian squad,” Halvor Lea, a spokesman for the Norway women’s team, said in a statement. “Preparations are going as normal.”

In another statement, Maren Mjelde, the captain of the Norway team, said many players most likely had woken up to the sound of a helicopter outside the window of their hotel and the emergency vehicles that had arrived out front.

“We felt safe the whole time,” she said.

This was the first major 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 in 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 monthslong gun buyback and amnesty program began. Later that year, a sweeping nationwide ban went into effect.

Even before then, gun ownership was relatively low in New Zealand, and gun violence is considered unusual. But in 1997, six people were killed and four others 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 he was shot dead by the police. The shootings led to a 1992 amendment to the 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.

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