Three dead in shooting near New Zealand World Cup fan zone

A gunman using a pump-action shotgun opened fire along Auckland’s scenic harbor Thursday morning, killing two people and wounding half a dozen others less than 12 hours before the women’s World Cup was scheduled to kickoff less than three miles away at Eden Park Stadium.

The shooter, identified as a 24-year-old male who was wearing an electronic monitoring bracelet on one ankle, was also found dead after engaging with police in an elevator shaft. At least one officer was among the wounded.

According to authorities, the incident began at about 7:22 a.m. local time at a construction site near where Queen Street, Auckland’s main thoroughfare, ends at the city’s ferry terminal. Three of the wounded were hospitalized in serious condition.

“Obviously, this has been a very grim morning for us,” prime minister Chris Hipkins said at a news conference. No motive for the shooting has been established and Hipkins said authorities believe the gunman acted alone.

“There is no national security factor that has been identified here,” the prime minister continued. “The police have this situation under control.”

Hipkins’ anticipated attendance at Thursday’s World Cup opener between New Zealand and Norway was being reviewed as of midday Thursday. The tournament was expected to go on as planned, although security will be stepped up at tournament venues.

The official FIFA fan fest, where tens of thousands of people typically congregate, is located just yards away from the shooting site and an event hosted by Tourism New Zealand was scheduled to take place there at noon Thursday. However, blocks of Auckland’s downtown were closed for hours after the shooting, snarling traffic. The sirens of police and ambulances could be heard wailing through the city’s canyon-like central business district for much of the morning.

Many World Cup teams are staying near the location of the shooting, with Norway’s hotel less than a quarter-mile away.

“Everyone probably woke up quite quickly when the helicopter hovered outside the hotel window and a large number of emergency vehicles arrived,” Norwegian captain Maren Mjelde said. “At first we didn’t know what was going on, but eventually there were updates on TV and the local media.

“We felt safe the whole time. FIFA has a good security system at the hotel, and we have our own security officer in the squad. Everyone seems calm and we are preparing as normal. We may have to adapt if there are any instructions from the authorities.”

The U.S. team, whose hotel is a couple of blocks from the shooting site, issued a statement on social media saying that “all of our players and staff are accounted for and safe” and “our security team is in communication with local authorities and we are proceeding with our daily schedule.”

The Philippines team, also staying nearby, was given police protection as players boarded their bus to head to training Thursday morning.

Authorities said a helicopter was over the scene three minutes after police were called with reports of a shooting. When officers arrived in squad cars moments later they found construction workers hiding behind piles of building materials.

Acting police superintendent Sunny Patel said the gunman entered the construction site and “continued to discharge his firearm” as he moved through the building.

“Upon reaching the upper levels of the building, the male contained himself within the elevator shaft and our staff attempted to engage with him,” Patel continued. “Further shots were fired from the male and he was located deceased a short time later.”

The prime minister praised officers who he said ran into the line of fire to confront the gunman.

“These kinds of situations move fast and the actions of those who risk their lives to save others are nothing short of heroic,” Hipkins said.

Shootings are rare in New Zealand, where gun owners must prove they are without criminal, psychiatric or drug issues before they can be issued a license to possess a firearm. About 250,000 of New Zealand’s 5.1 million people have a license and there are as many as 1.7 million firearms in the country, according to Gun Control NZ, an advocacy group that has called for stricter gun-control measures.

After the 2019 Christchurch mosque shootings, in which a lone gunmen killed 51 people and wounded 40 others, laws were tightened to restrict semiautomatic weapons and magazines with a capacity of more than 10 pounds. That legislation passed New Zealand’s parliament 119-1.

Certain kinds of pump-action shotguns, the type of weapon the gunmen reportedly used Thursday, were among those addressed in the 2019 law.