NEW ZEALAND: On Thursday in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, a shooting incident resulted in the tragic loss of at least two lives, including the armed attacker, and left five others wounded. The incident occurred just hours before the scheduled opening match of the Women’s Soccer World Cup in the same city.
Chris Hipkins, Prime Minister of New Zealand, said that the soccer tournament would proceed as originally planned, adding that the shooting appeared to have been carried out by a single individual, and the police confirmed that they were not actively searching for any other suspects related to the incident.
During a televised press conference, Hipkins stated that there was “no identified political or ideological motivation for the shooting and, therefore, no national security risk.” Even though there will be more police in the city, he added, the threat level to New Zealand’s security will not change.
For the ninth Women’s World Cup, which is being co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand, Auckland has welcomed thousands of foreign athletes and tourists. Later in the day, Hipkins told reporters, “Obviously, we would prefer it not to have started in this way.”
At the opening ceremony, what happened today will be acknowledged. And I will go because it is safe to do so, and we keep urging the entire community to support this, he stated.
Police Commissioner Andrew Coster stated during a news conference that the gunman, a 24-year-old male who worked at the construction site where the shooting took place, has not been officially identified yet.
Carrying a pump-action shotgun, the individual proceeded to shoot while moving through a building site. Upon reaching the upper levels, they barricaded themselves within an elevator shaft and continued firing before being discovered lifeless shortly thereafter.
During the shooting incident, an officer and four members of the public sustained injuries. The gunman had been serving a sentence of home detention but was granted an exemption to work at the site.
The person’s history of family violence is mostly known. Nothing indicates that he has provided a higher level of risk than that history suggested, as per the Police Commissioner.
At the time of the incident, it was known that football teams from New Zealand, Norway, Italy, the US, Vietnam, and Portugal were present in the city.
The first game at Eden Park tonight will go as scheduled after FIFA was told that this was an isolated incident unrelated to football operations. Regarding any potential effects, the participating teams that were in close vicinity to the incident are being assisted, FIFA told the UK media.
In the two opening World Cup games on Thursday, Australia plays Ireland in Sydney, and Norway plays New Zealand in Auckland. Before the game in Auckland began, a moment of silence was observed, and players wore black armbands in memory of the victims of the shooting.
A number of the players posted on social media that they were safe after the incident that occurred close to the Norwegian team hotel in central Auckland.
During the police operation, Maren Mjelde, the captain of Norway, informed the Norwegian newspaper that everything appears to be calm, and the team is preparing as usual for tonight’s game.
Due to the players’ inability to leave their hotel, training for Italy and the US team was delayed.
The husband of US Vice President Kamala Harris, Douglas Emhoff, who is leading the presidential group to New Zealand for the World Cup opening ceremony, is safe, according to the American embassy.
The incident, according to American forward Lynn Williams, was something she and her countrymen had experienced “far too many times” in the country, where gun violence is prevalent.
All ferry services into Auckland were suspended, several streets in the city were blocked off, and buses were instructed to take alternate routes. The shooting, according to Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown, had nothing to do with the World Cup.
New Zealand has stricter gun rules after a shooter killed 51 Muslim worshippers in Christchurch in 2019 in the nation’s worst mass shooting during a time of peace, where gun violence is uncommon.
The government has outlawed all military-style semi-automatics and other lethal weapons.