Auckland shooting near Women’s World Cup ends as 2 killed, 6 injured

AUCKLAND, New Zealand — A deadly shooting in downtown Auckland threatened to overshadow the opening game of the Women’s World Cup on Thursday, although New Zealand’s prime minister said the event will go ahead as planned, with an increased police presence.

A lone gunman armed with a pump-action shotgun entered a construction site not far from where many of the teams are staying on Thursday morning, barely 12 hours before the opening game.

Two people were killed and six wounded, including a police officer. The gunman was found dead a short time later after a standoff with armed police.

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said initial investigations indicated that there wasn’t any political or ideological motivation to the shooting, and there was “no national security risk.” He said officials have been in “regular contact with FIFA and they are proceeding as planned.”

Gun-related violence is rare here and gun controls are strict. New Zealand further tightened gun laws in 2019, less than 24 hours after an Australian man opened fire at two mosques in Christchurch, killing 51 worshipers with weapons that included an assault rifle.

Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown said he was “shocked and saddened” by the incident and expressed sympathy to the families of the two victims.

“What we know is that this is an isolated incident,” he said. This appears to be the act of one individual, this was not a threat to national security, nor was it in any way related to the FIFA Women’s World Cup Event.”

The World Cup will begin Thursday with a game between New Zealand and Norway, starting at 7 p.m. local time.

The U.S. team, which is staying at a hotel near the construction site where the shooting took place, was unaffected and game preparations were proceeding as planned.

“Regarding the incident in downtown Auckland, all of our USWNT players and staff are accounted for and safe,” U.S. Soccer wrote on Twitter. “Our security team is in communication with local authorities and we are proceeding with our daily schedule.”

The Norwegian team was also safe, the local news site Stuff reported.

Norway captain Maren Mjelde said the team heard the police arrive on the scene but did not know what was going on until seeing the news on New Zealand media websites.

About 7:30 a.m. local time, the gunman entered the construction site on lower Queen Street, near a main train station and ferry terminal, as well as hotels and a popular mall. He fired shots as he made his way up through the building, police said.

“This has been a very grim morning for us,” Hipkins said. “There is no ongoing risk here.”

The construction site is close to the Cloud fan zone, which opened Thursday morning and will show Thursday night’s game on a big screen.

Maia Jackman, a former New Zealand national player who was at the fan venue, described the shooting as a “tragedy” on a day many hoped would drum up a frenzy of excitement and help attract more young girls to the sport.

More than 40,000 people, a sellout crowd, are expected at Eden Park stadium to watch New Zealand play Norway on Thursday night. In Sydney, co-host Australia will play Ireland.

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