It happened in the city of Auckland, just hours before kick off in the opening match
A gunman stormed a high-rise construction site in downtown Auckland early on Thursday morning, shooting at terrified workers and killing two people as New Zealand prepares to host games in the Fifa Women’s World Cup.
The gunman was found dead after a police shootout, during which an officer was shot and injured. Four civilians were also injured.
The shooting happened near hotels where Team Norway and other soccer teams have been staying.
New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said the tournament would go ahead as scheduled.
He said: “Clearly with the Fifa World Cup kicking off this evening, there are a lot of eyes on Auckland.
“The government has spoken to Fifa organisers this morning and the tournament will proceed as planned.
“I want to reiterate that there is no wider national security threat. This appears to be the action of one individual.”
Mr Hipkins said the gunman was armed with a pump-action shotgun. Police arrived within minutes of the first emergency call and ran into harm’s way to save lives.
“These kinds of situations move fast and the actions of those who risk their lives to save others are nothing short of heroic,” Mr Hipkins said.
Police commissioner Andrew Coster said the gunman was a 24-year-old who had previously worked at the building site, and the motivation for the shooting appeared connected to his work there.
The gunman had a history of family violence and was serving a sentence of home detention but had an exemption to work at the lower Queen Street site, Mr Coster said.
The gunman began shooting at about 7.20am and police soon swarmed the area.
He moved through the building firing at people as many workers fled or hid.
The gunman then barricaded himself in an elevator shaft on the third floor, Mr Coster said, where Swat-type officers engaged him after securing the floors above and below.
“The offender fired at police, injuring an officer,” Mr Coster said. “Shots were exchanged and the offender was later found deceased.”
He said it was not yet clear if police had shot the gunman or he had killed himself. He said the gunman did not have a gun licence and so should not have been in possession of a weapon.
Outside, armed police officers had the commercial business district on heavy lockdown with streets cordoned off surrounding the tourist harbour ferry terminal area. Police demanded bystanders disperse and ordered people inside their office buildings to shelter in place.
The incident comes as soccer teams and fans gathered in New Zealand for the Fifa Women’s World Cup.
The opening match is scheduled for Thursday between New Zealand and Norway. Mr Hipkins said he was reviewing whether he would attend the match as planned.
The ban does not include all semi-automatic weapons. Mr Coster said the gunman’s shotgun is not on the list of banned weapons.
Mr Coster said: “I want to acknowledge that this has been a shocking and traumatic event for those people who came to work and found themselves in the middle of an armed emergency.
“Thankfully, many people were able to escape the building, but I know for those who hid or remained trapped, this was a terrifying experience.”
Officials at Eden Park, where the opening match is taking place, said they were encouraging ticket holders to arrive early and there would be an increased security presence at the venue.