Gunman Kills 2 People in New Zealand Hours Before Women’s World Cup Opener

by Ryan Lee

In the early hours of Thursday morning, a man attacked a high-rise construction site in downtown Auckland, New Zealand. He opened fire on terrified workers, resulting in the tragic deaths of two individuals. The incident occurred just hours before New Zealand was scheduled to host the opening game of the FIFA Women’s World Cup tournament.

Following a police shootout, the gunman was found dead, while an officer was injured by a gunshot. Additionally, four civilians sustained injuries during the chaos. The shooting took place in close proximity to the hotels where Team Norway and other soccer teams were staying.

New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins assured the public that the tournament would proceed as planned. To alleviate concerns, heightened security measures would be implemented during the opening game, and a minute of silence would be observed before each of the two opening matches, according to FIFA.

Hipkins stated, “There is no wider national security threat. This appears to be the action of one individual.” The shooting deeply unsettled New Zealand, where such incidents are rare, dominating the country’s major news outlets and broadcasts.

The Prime Minister commended the swift response of the police, who arrived within minutes of the emergency call and courageously risked their lives to protect others. Hipkins revealed that the gunman, a 24-year-old, had previously worked at the construction site, and his motives seemed connected to his employment there.

The shooting commenced at approximately 7:20 a.m., prompting a swift police deployment to the area. The assailant moved through the unfinished building, firing at people as workers fled or sought shelter. Eventually, he barricaded himself in a third-floor elevator shaft, where he engaged in a confrontation with specialized officers after securing the floors above and below.

Police Commissioner Andrew Coster stated that it remained unclear whether the police shot the assailant or if he took his own life. The suspect did not possess a gun license and should not have been in possession of a firearm. Outside, armed police officers enforced a heavy lockdown in downtown Auckland, cordoning off streets around the popular harbor ferry terminal, urging bystanders to disperse, and instructing individuals inside office buildings to shelter in place.

The shooting occurred amidst the arrival of soccer teams and fans in New Zealand for the FIFA Women’s World Cup, which the country co-hosted with Australia. The opening match between New Zealand and Norway was scheduled to take place in Auckland on Thursday evening. Hipkins mentioned he was considering whether he would attend the match as planned.

Maren Mjelde, the captain of Team Norway, reassured everyone, stating that despite the abrupt wake-up call caused by a hovering helicopter outside their hotel window, the team felt safe. FIFA’s robust security system and their own security officer provided reassurance. Mjelde added that the team was preparing for the game as usual.

Team USA confirmed the safety and well-being of all its players and staff, staying in touch with local authorities while adhering to their regular schedule.

Eden Park, the venue for the FIFA tournament’s opening match, emphasized the need for early arrival and assured attendees of an increased security presence.

New Zealand implemented strict gun laws in 2019 following the country’s worst mass shooting, which resulted in a significant shift in public sentiment towards firearms. In March 2019, a shooter attacked two Christchurch mosques during Friday prayers, killing 51 Muslim worshippers. The then-Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, pledged to ban most semiautomatic weapons within a month and successfully implemented the ban, with only one Parliament member opposing it. A subsequent buyback initiative encouraged gun owners to surrender over 50,000 newly prohibited firearms in exchange for compensation.

Regarding the recent shooting, Police Commissioner Coster stated that the shotgun used was not on the list of banned weapons.

Coster expressed sympathy for those who found themselves in the middle of this terrifying armed emergency, emphasizing the traumatic nature of the experience. The injured officer, initially in critical condition, had been stabilized and was scheduled for surgery on Thursday. The condition of the other injured individuals, as well as the exact nature of their injuries, remained uncertain.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino, together with Secretary-General Fatma Samoura, held discussions with New Zealand Sports Minister Grant Robertson regarding the tournament’s security arrangements after the shooting. Infantino acknowledged the collaboration with New Zealand authorities throughout the tragic incident and expressed gratitude for the necessary reassurances received.

Jennifer Deering, a tourist from Orlando, Florida, initially felt shocked upon learning about the shooting. Previously assured of Auckland’s safety by a tour guide, she ultimately continued with her day. Deering lamented the unfortunate normalcy of such incidents being a regular occurrence in American news.

Tourism New Zealand canceled a media welcome party initially scheduled for Thursday afternoon within the cordoned-off downtown area.

Perry reported from Wellington, New Zealand.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about gunman

Q: What happened in New Zealand before the Women’s World Cup?

A: A gunman stormed a construction site in downtown Auckland, shooting and killing two people. The incident occurred just hours before the scheduled opening game of the FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Q: Was the gunman apprehended?

A: Yes, the gunman was found dead after a shootout with the police. During the confrontation, an officer was shot and injured. Four civilians were also injured in the incident.

Q: Will the Women’s World Cup proceed as planned?

A: Yes, New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins confirmed that the tournament will go ahead as scheduled. There will be heightened security measures in place for the opening game to reassure fans.

Q: Was the shooting related to terrorism?

A: According to the Prime Minister, there is no indication of a wider national security threat. The incident appears to be the action of one individual with a motive connected to his previous work at the construction site.

Q: How did the shooting impact New Zealand, considering such incidents are rare?

A: The shooting deeply shocked New Zealand, where active shooter incidents are infrequent. It dominated news coverage and prompted a heavy police presence in downtown Auckland.

Q: Were the soccer teams and fans affected by the shooting?

A: Soccer teams, including Team Norway and Team USA, confirmed the safety and well-being of their players and staff. Security measures were reassessed, but the teams proceeded with their preparations for the tournament.

Q: What are the gun laws in New Zealand?

A: New Zealand implemented strict gun laws in 2019 following a mass shooting in Christchurch. Semiautomatic weapons were banned, and a buyback scheme saw thousands of firearms surrendered to the authorities.

Q: Will there be increased security measures for future matches?

A: Yes, there will be an increased security presence at the tournament venue, Eden Park, to ensure the safety of attendees and participants.

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NewsJunkie99 July 20, 2023 - 8:50 am

Another senseless act of violence. My heart goes out to the victims and their families. It’s tragic that these incidents happen even in countries with strict gun laws like New Zealand. We need to work together to find solutions. #EndGunViolence

SoccerFan88 July 20, 2023 - 12:21 pm

wow, cant beleive wat happend in new zealand b4 the womens world cup! thnk god the teams r safe. hope the rest of the tourney goes smothly! #PrayForNewZealand

FootyFanatic July 20, 2023 - 2:31 pm

The shooting is a real shocker, mate. Can’t imagine how the teams and fans must be feelin’ right now. Props to the police for their swift response. Wishing everyone involved in the Women’s World Cup all the best. Let’s come together and support the beautiful game! #UnitedThroughFootball

SportsLover23 July 20, 2023 - 5:49 pm

omg, this is so sad. I was lookin forward to the womens world cup opener in NZ. Glad to hear the tournament will still go on tho. Hoping for a safe and exciting competition! #WomenKickGoals

InfoGeek123 July 21, 2023 - 6:06 am

NZ’s gun laws have made a difference, but there’s still work to be done. The fact that the shooter had a history of family violence and shouldn’t have had a firearm highlights the need for better background checks and mental health support. Let’s keep pushing for safer communities. #GunControlMatters


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